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Draft Day ••1/2

Draft_Day_posterStarring:  Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenplay: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph
Drama/Sport, Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2014
Weaver: Single, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Lone Hero)
Weaver: Single, P-P Moral, Ant (Untransformed Self Villain)


reel-2 480px-One-half.svg villain-2villain-half h-logo-2 h-logo-half

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it feels a little cold in this room.

Well shut the door to stop the draft. It’s time to review Draft Day. Let’s recap.

It’s the day of the 2014 NFL draft, and Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) has the 7th pick in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks have the first pick and are expected to draft the highly heralded hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence). Seattle’s general manager contacts Weaver and offers Cleveland it’s first round pick but the price is too high and Weaver declines. Soon Weaver’s boss, Browns’ owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) pressures Weaver to make a big “splash” with the draft pick, hinting that he’d welcome Callahan to the fold.

So Sonny calls the Seahawks back and takes the deal. He isn’t sure about the deal and sets his staff to investigate Callahan’s background. Meanwhile, Sonny’s girlfriend Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner) (who is also on the Browns staff as a lawyer) reveals that she is pregnant with his child. This being the biggest day of the football year, Sonny isn’t thrilled with the news. And now the stage is set as Sonny Weaver must decide if his first-round draft pick will be for his favorite player or for the hotshot quarterback with a shady past.

Greg, the best word I can generate to describe Draft Day is that it’s a pleasant movie to watch. The formula for a pretty decent movie is well in place — we have a genuinely good heroic leading man in Sonny Weaver, who faces a number of challenging circumstances beyond his control and struggles to cope with them. These circumstances include the recent death of his father; an owner who demands a splashy first-round pick; the quarterback who trashes his office; the head coach who wants more control over player personnel than he deserves; the mother and ex-wife who criticize him; and the girlfriend who wants to take their relationship to the next level.

All this makes for a good hero story, as we, the audience, are eager to see if Weaver can overcome these challenges. As with any good hero story, Weaver gets some support and assistance from key characters and does manage to rise to the occasion. As I said, Draft Day a pleasant movie — it features an interesting situation and these are characters we care about. Costner, moreover, is effective in his role. I can’t use a word more enthusiastic than ‘pleasant’ because no new ground is broken here and I doubt I’ll give this movie a second viewing.

I think you’ve summed it up pretty well. This movie was almost made-for-TV quality with its split-screen phone conversations and Lifetime subplot. Costner really phoned in his performance. I think I’ve been forever spoiled by 2011’s Moneyball. I’m not a sports fan, so Moneyball’s ability to pull me into the world of Major League Baseball and make me care about what happens in that world impressed me greatly. Draft Day looked like it wanted to be Moneyball for football and failed miserably. I was lost for the first thirty minutes because I don’t follow football (let alone the annual draft picks).

Costner’s Sonny Weaver was a terse, no-nonsense sort of man’s man. He is living in his father’s shadow who was the former coach of the Browns. This is Sonny’s first opportunity to shine as his own man. He has pressures from all around and manages them as best as he can – although he is prone to throwing laptops through the wall. As a hero, Sonny Weaver is no surprise, yet still no embarrassment either.

Greg, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the villains in this movie. There really aren’t any, and so that eliminates the ‘Man vs. Man’ villain-type that we discuss in our explanation of our villain ratings. This leaves us with the other two options — ‘Man vs. Self’ or ‘Man vs. Nature.”  Sonny Weaver faces daunting circumstances, and you could argue that these somewhat natural stressors serve as the “villainous” opposing forces in the movie. This suggests ‘Man vs. Nature.”

But Weaver’s challenges are also internal ones – can he overcome his past, can he focus his thoughts, can he will himself to think clearly and make the right call? These factors suggest a ‘Man vs. Self’ villain type. So we may have a hybrid operating here, with our hero struggling with both environmental and personal oppositional forces.

I can see your conflict here Scott. I think it’s because the villains are so poorly drawn. We do have a couple “oppositional” characters that are in the foreground then some lesser ones bringing up the rear.

I think the Brown’s owner Molina is playing the villain character in this film. He’s the one pressuring Sonny to go against his better judgement and risk it all to draft the hot-shot quarterback. Also, the head coach played by Denis Leary is in Sonny’s face demanding to be given the team he wants to play. These two characters are the faces of Sonny’s external challenges. The lesser villains here are the managers from the other teams who are making deals with Sonny and trying to get the better of him. Arguably, Sonny’s mother is an oppositional character as well as she attempts to distract him from the biggest day of his career with his dead father’s last wishes.

I don’t see Molina or the head coach as villains. They’re good men trying to do their jobs, and they have honest disagreements with Sonny. Plus, in the end, none of them are defeated the way villains are usually defeated at the end of a movie. The only things that are defeated are Sonny’s vulnerabilities and insecurities, suggesting that his major foe was himself.

The one unsavory person in the movie is the quarterback Bo Callahan. But even Callahan is just an immature college football player who is hardly the force of evil that we typically see in movie villains. The mother isn’t a villain; she’s merely one of many distractions. So I guess I’m leaning toward the “self” as the major oppositional force in this movie. Weaver is in the pressure cooker and is compelled to muster all his strength to steer his way through all the pressure.

This was a weak movie all around, Scott. You called it ‘pleasant’ but I’d call it bland. There was not much tension in the film and that is due largely to Costner’s understated delivery. I spent the first act just trying to understand the significance of Costner’s draft day dilemma. I give Draft Day a mere 2 out of 5 Reels.

Costner plays a “darned-good-guy” in this film, as he does in most of his films. He’s likable as Sonny Weaver but I never feel his pain or stress. I give him only 2 Heroes out of 5.

The villains in this story were difficult to see because everyone appears to be on the same team (pun intended). I give them just 2 Villains out of 5 as well.

Movie: reel-2 Villain: villain-2 Hero: h-logo-2

I enjoyed this movie more than you did, Greg, perhaps because I’m a big football fan, although you are correct in pointing out that Money Ball proved that a good sports film should appeal to a broad audience. Draft Day is good mindless fun and takes viewers on a roller coaster ride inside the sports world. The movie is a bit too formulaic but Costner’s pleasant (there’s that word again) demeanor and winning spirit carry us forward. I give this movie 3 Reels out of 5.

There’s a decent hero story here, with Weaver thrown into a dark unfamiliar world without his father and with intense pressure from family and work. Weaver doesn’t so much change or transform himself as much as he is forced to dig deep to become the effective general manager that Molina hired him to be. Sometimes finding our true selves amidst the chaos of life is our greatest challenge. For a pleasing hero story, I award Weaver 3 out of 5 Heroes.

We couldn’t agree on the nature of the villains, but I don’t think that this is a weakness of the film. Instead, I see it more conceptually as a blurred line between challenges that heroes face because they are weak-minded versus challenges they face because circumstances make them appear weak. I come down on the side of viewing Weaver as conflicted and tormented, thus making this movie an example of ‘Man vs. Self.’ Overall, I’m willing to give these oppositional forces 3 out of 5 Villains.

Movie: reel-3 Villain: villain-3 Hero: h-logo-3

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