Ivan Reitman brought us comedic classics such as Meatballs, Stripes, and Ghostbusters (all with Bill Murray), as well as Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior (all starring Arnold Schwartzenegger). Reitman is equally responsible for the comedic flops Father’s Day, Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and No Strings Attached. After only making 2 movies in 14 years, using a sports dramedy as his third entry this millennium was (on paper) an odd choice (almost as odd as Ron Howard making Rush). Especially since sport-based films have flooded the cinema as of late (Cinderella Man, The Blind Side, Moneyball, 42, Trouble with the Curve, and Rush, just to name a few).
Not being a sports fan in any stretch of the imagination, I went into Draft Day (starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner) with confused expectations. Part of me wanted to see something dramatic like The Blind Side, yet the trailers indicated something more humorous. In the end, Draft Day is actually a well-executed dramedy about what happens behind the scenes when teams are formed: political battles, emotional manipulation, media and social pressure, and whoever gets picked first gets paid the most, causing managers to throw their influence onto the field to benefit their clients. After all, the potential future of a team, the players, and the organization all lie within a single day of draft picks.
What makes Draft Day stand out as unusual is not the casting, not the suspense, not the occasional joke, but the directing and editing technique used to tell this story. Green screen effects, line and bar wipes, split screens, and multi-layered effects involving actors’ entrance and exits (all combined with jump cuts) allow for every phone call to feel like watching a game of football itself. Such a technique took me off guard when it started. Half-way into the film, I began to really appreciate the style, and by the end of the film I wanted to watch it again to experience how the timing and speed of the effects worked to see if they sped up to increase the level of tension (which is my theory and expectation).
Make no mistake, this film is more drama than comedy; though the comedy does build as the tension builds. Originally given an R rating then given a PG-13 based on appeal only (no re-editing or changes were made), this film is a heavy PG-13 concerning language. So those with sensitive ears beware.
In the end, Draft Day was an uplifting and inspiring film, not because of Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner…but because of the side characters effected by the draft itself. Their lives, their character, and their stories are the real heart of this piece. Their stories are also minor, intentionally (and ingeniously) kept on the sidelines for maximum impact. In short, Draft Day is about character, integrity, and dignity.