SBD/April 11, 2014/Media

"Draft Day" Film Receives Mixed Reviews, But Praise For NFL Authenticity

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The new NFL-themed movie "Draft Day" hits theaters on Friday, and while the film "doesn't have the nuance" of "Moneyball," its "reverence for the gridiron, its heroes and the cities that worship them (particularly Cleveland) will make the movie a first-round pick of diehards," according to Scott Bowles of USA TODAY. Bowles gives the film a two-and-a-half-star rating and writes director Ivan Reitman "does a deft job of capturing the national frenzy" that is the NFL Draft. Not since '04's "Friday Night Lights" has a feaure film "captured football frenzy so authentically." But the film "stumbles at the goal line." Bowles: "Credit it with an unorthodox approach to the genre. But it doesn't have enough depth to its characters to overcome the lack of action" (USA TODAY, 4/11). In N.Y., A.O. Scott writes Reitman for his part "does an efficient job disguising this marshmallowy melodrama of masculinity in crisis as a tough sports movie." But "Draft Day" is "less a football movie than a promotional film" for the NFL. Scott: "It's a shallow and evasive movie, built more around corporate wish fulfillment than around reality -- but I have to say that it sells itself beautifully" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/11). At presstime, the film had a 56% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (THE DAILY).

GOING FOR REAL FEEL: "Draft Day" co-writer Scott Rothman said that he was "amazed at the scale of the film, complete with the NFL’s blessing and access to archival footage." He added, "We never really expected the film to get made; when we started working, we thought this was going to be very small without the NFL getting involved." Reitman said that he "made the film for those who know little about football" (VARIETY.com, 4/8). ESPN's Darren Rovell tweeted, "Told NFL not only got rights fee for 'Draft Day,' but also gets a piece of the movie's revenue" (TWITTER.com, 4/11). Reitman said of the NFL's involvement, "To be at the NFL Draft with my own crew on my own audio channel and move them around and getting to work with all the team reps who show up wearing the same clothes the night before ... was great." Asked if there was any particular player he wanted to involve, Reitman said, "Jim Brown; he was in it at the end and that was something I wanted" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/8). SI's Jim Gorant notes former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and the N.Y. Post's Steve Serby "consulted on the script" (SI, 4/14 issue). In Dallas, Chris Vognar noted the film "has a number of soaring overhead shots featuring NFL stadiums in Houston, Cleveland, Seattle, Kansas City, Jacksonville and Buffalo." Vognar: "Sadly, no Jerry World" (DALLASNEWS.com, 4/9).

TOUCHDOWN: VARIETY's Scott Foundas wrote the role of fictional Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr. fits Kevin Costner "to a tee in what’s easily the savviest sports movie since 'Moneyball.'" "Draft Day" is "refreshingly smart about the complex decisions that go into making the hires and trades that often send fans into a tizzy, but which may be in the long-term best interests of the team." The "climactic draft proves more than worth the wait, and Costner is a particular pleasure to watch in it" (VARIETY.com, 4/10). The DALLAS MORNING NEWS' Vognar gives the film a B+ rating and writes it "strikes a balance with the potential to please both casual moviegoers and Sunday couch potatoes" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/11). In Newark, Stephen Whitty writes the film is "both briskly up-to-date and refreshingly old-fashioned" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/11). In Pittsburgh, Barbara Vancheri writes the movie is "pretty entertaining, thanks to the solid cast" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/11). In Seattle, John Hartl writes under the header, "'Draft Day': A Good Pick For Sports-Movie Fans" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/10).

FIELD GOAL: In San Jose, Tony Hicks wrote the movie "isn't exactly well-grounded in reality, but it offers enough breathless fun to make viewers not care." The film "comes off like the world's biggest ESPN/NFL commercial," and Reitman "injects just enough humor to keep 'Draft Day' from going overboard with the machismo" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/10). In Cleveland, Clint O'Connor gave the movie a B+ rating and wrote the studio is "promoting 'Draft Day' as a descendant of Costner’s other beloved sports-related films." It is "not on the same level as those movies, but it is a fun, entertaining ride" (CLEVELAND.com, 4/10). In Chicago, Michael Phillips wrote it is a "moderately engaging wish-fulfillment fantasy, a long way from the surprising ins and outs and stealthy dramatic impact of 'Moneyball' but not bad for what it is" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/10). In Akron, Rich Heldenfels wrote "Draft Day," as movies go, is "is the equivalent of an 8-8 NFL team" or "maybe even a 7-9." It is "sporadically interesting" (OHIO.com, 4/10). In Boston, James Verniere writes drama "is not this film's strong suit," but "'Draft Day' tells an interesting enough story" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/11). In Detroit, Tom Long writes it is "not a terrible film, just predictable." Mostly there is "the NFL in all its upbeat, rah-rah glory" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/11). MCCLATCHY's Roger Moore wrote "Draft Day" is a "reasonably interesting -- to NFL fans, anyway -- peek behind the curtains at the wheeling, dealing and overthinking that goes on as teams, managers and coaches try to avoid looking as if they don’t know what they’re doing." But "Draft Day" can "be a bit of a melodramatic bore" for casual football and movie fans (MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE, 4/10). In Baton Rouge, Ted Lewis wrote under the header, "'Draft Day' Is Watchable, But Flawed" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 4/7).

FUMBLE: In Chicago, Richard Roeper gives the film a three-star rating and writes "'Draft Day' is a cornball 'Moneyball.'" The "'war room' scenes are sometimes overplayed." The film "works for what it wants to be: a human drama sprinkled with a number of laughs" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/11). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote extensive access "does give the movie an authentic look no other football movie has ever achieved." But "Draft Day" is still "a corny version of Moneyball, without the smarts." The big-ticket cast members "are a bunch of pros who do their job well, but Draft Day is not going to be a smash" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/10). In St. Louis, Joe Williams wrote the film "is not in the same league as 'Moneyball.'" "Draft Day" is "the Sam Bradford of sports movies -- not an All Pro, but capable of a close, fourth-quarter win" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/10). In N.Y., Elizabeth Weitzman writes “Moneyball” had a “sharp script and a magnetic star,” but “Draft Day” boasts “neither of those assets.” Instead, it “tries to get by on manufactured energy” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/11).

THE STAR: In N.Y., Kyle Smith writes under the header, “Costner Fumbles In Predictable ‘Draft Day.’” The story “is as thin as a waterboy” (N.Y. POST, 4/11). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Todd McCarthy wrote the screenwriting team of Rajiv Joseph and Rothman makes it “easy even for the uninitiated to get with the program.” Although almost always “engaging and seemingly true to the world it depicts, Draft Day is never quite as funny as you somehow think it's going to be.” To a “great extent, this is likely due to the choice” of Costner (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/10). In Toronto, Peter Howell writes the film “is not destined for Costner’s personal hall of fame” (TORONTO STAR, 4/11).
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