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Movie Review - "Draft Day"

A Day in the Life of the National Football League

“Draft Day” is a really fun movie, though why it was released at the start of baseball season is beyond me. Perhaps the release date was chosen to coincide with the NFL draft, which is its subject. What makes the story so interesting is that it reveals a dimension of professional sports we rarely see -- behind-the-scenes negotiations between NFL general managers trying to field teams that will compete for a Super Bowl.

Kevin Costner is superb as Sonny Weaver, the new general manager of the Cleveland Browns, and a man whose life is full of fraught  relationships. Jennfier Garner plays his girlfriend, Ali, who also works for the team as the manager of salary cap analysis. As the film opens, Ali has just told Sonny that she’s pregnant, and Sonny doesn’t know what to say, do, think, or feel. He can see that he’s starting draft day in a deep hole.

The Browns’ Coach Penn, played by Denis Leary, is mad at Sonny for not consulting him about which players to draft. The tension between Coach and GM continues throughout the movie. But Sonny’s troubles are just beginning. Frank Langella plays the Browns’ very hands-on owner, Anthony Molina, who knows very well who the team should draft and wants to make sure that Sonny is going to do as he’s told. Sonny isn’t so sure that the obvious choice is best for the team. His doubts continue to fester, yet he isn’t sure in whom to confide or from whom to seek advice.

Another problematic relationship in Sonny’s life is with his mother, Barb Weaver, played beautifully by Ellen Burstyn. Barb wants Sonny’s help in scattering the ashes of her late husband, Sonny’s father, who died the year before after having coached the Browns for many years. Sonny, then, is living in the shadow of his late father. As we discover the full range of complications in Sonny’s life, the clock is ticking down to the moment when Sonny must announce his first draft picks.

“Draft Day” is full of cameo appearances by leading lights from the NFL, including Deion Sanders, Jon Gruden, Chris Berman, Bernie Kosar, the great Jim Brown, and many others. Their appearances add a large measure of realism to the film.

The main story line follows GM Sonny Weaver as he trades up, trades down, trades away his first-round draft pick, and then manages to accomplish something that no one had thought possible, ultimately re-building not only his team but rescuing his relationships with his girlfriend Ali, his mother Barb, Coach Penn, and his surprise first-round draft pick. With all of the action unfolding within the span of a single day, greater suspense is created as we head toward the actual opening of the draft.

“Draft Day” is a worthy successor to such great sports films as “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Moneyball,” Trouble With The Curve,” and “Jerry Maguire.” If you enjoy professional sports of any kind, don’t miss this one.