Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Chadwick Boseman, Sean Combs, Terry Crews. (2014, PG-13, 109 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 11, 2014
The people waited patiently. Their god of baseball movies had gone quiet. Long years passed with no fast pitch, no screwball, no locker-room banter nor motivational pep talk from their god. The people waited some more. The people hoped for another baseball movie god who could be so many things at once. Folksy. Cantankerous. An underdog. Pleasing in slim-fit athletic pants, but not in a way that might make heterosexual men feel weird for liking him so much. The people waited in vain.
And then the clouds parted, and another god – a comedy god who gifted the people with Meatballs and Ghostbusters and even, yeah, sure, Kindergarten Cop – deigned to unite the god of baseball movies with a promising-sounding football movie called Draft Day, which would be about a general manager wheeling and dealing to lock in his NFL draft picks. The people looked askance. “Football? This is not America’s pastime.” True, but neither is golf, and Tin Cup was very likable.
Still, the comedy god knew he needed to sell the people on this pigskin business, so he inserted much archival footage, played back at a slower speed to encourage the people’s mind to roam to crisp autumn leaves, the juicy snap of a tailgate sausage, and other universally acknowledged signifiers of a simpler time. Footage of football players so storied even the knuckleheads would know their names – Montana, Elway, Manning – and nod, yes: This is football, and it is America. The movie would then introduce names of its own fictional characters, whose very fates dangle in the balance – would these young men go first round to Seattle? Third round to Jacksonville? Get traded on account of a knee injury? – but bother very little with making these characters memorable, save the one played by Chadwick Boseman. Young Boseman would tug ever so gently at the heartstrings through a force of charisma that could not and should not be credited to the script by mortals Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph. (This Boseman lately played Jackie Robinson in 42. Yes, baseball.)
The promising-sounding football movie would turn out to be a movie about men talking on phones. There would be limp attempts at making this seem visually dynamic – some tomfoolery with split screens that would ruffle every film-school graduate who spent a semester studying continuity editing and the 180-degree rule – but the dazzling aerial photography of our nation’s football stadiums could not be denied. (Monday Night Football would do well to swipe the B-roll.) There would be a plot, its conclusions foregone, and there would be surprisingly little comedy. That joke about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark does not a meal make.
And what of the god of baseball movies? He could still be folksy, cantankerous, an underdog. But those mischievous looks of yesteryear would be replaced by an expression of constant constipation. Neither he, nor the people, would ever find relief.