Directed By: Ivan Reitman
Written By: Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph
I have plenty of passions, but not many that run as deep as my passion for the NFL. Like any NFL fan, one of my favorite days of the year is here. The NFL Draft, for many of us, offers some of the most exciting days of the year. An event all fans spend weeks and months anticipating and putting so much hope into. What makes it all so exciting it that despite what all the “experts” say in the days leading up to it, when the clock starts nobody knows what will happen. There are always surprises on draft day and it’s a day during the year when anything can happen. It just so happens to be a happy coincidence that this year there is a corresponding movie I can review in correlation with the magical day, which is actually a three day event. I liked this movie enough to add it to our collection and write about it so what better opportunity than on the day of?
This movie is a bit of a stretch for a football fan but I tend to overlook the exaggerated nature of how it portrays the draft because there is so much to like about it. Number one, it’s about the Browns. I’m not a Browns fan, but I specifically like Browns fans. I have been watching the NFL for over ten years now and only once have I ever seen that team have a good season. I am from the south, where by all obvious reasons I should never come across fans of such a pathetic franchise hundreds of miles away. Yet, despite this, I find that I run into them all the time. If I lived in a place like Cleveland, or even just in Ohio or the surrounding states it would make sense but I don’t. When I meet Browns fans I feel like it says something about the character of the person. Browns fans are loyal; they keep pulling for their team despite the lack of success. I once hired a guy with no qualifications and a piss poor track record simply because he was a Browns fan. Years later that man still works for me and despite everything he does a damn good job and I enjoy working with him. The Browns may suck, but their fans are the real deal. For anybody that doesn’t know, the Browns are legit, and despite their lack of success they are a significant franchise with passionate fans.
One of the things that make the draft so interesting is the desperate decisions some teams will make when they are on the clock and their options are limited. These teams will do the craziest things for unproven players with no idea how they will transition to the next level. Another news flash for people who don’t know, the analyst don’t know anything either. Despite all the footage they watch and the time they put into it they’re guessing, and when you bank on a guess you are making a critical mistake. See, that’s what makes football so much fun, because nobody really knows. It’s a never ending game of possibility, where nobody really knows what will happen and all the know-it-all’s can do nothing but sit there and watch while history unfolds. Sometimes they are right but it’s always just a guessing game and more often than not it’s just a surprise. Surprises can make life interesting. For me, the surprises in football make it so.
This movie showcases those surprises, and it grasps all the intensity involved. The draft is intense because the clock is ticking and nobody knows what will happen next. As this movie shows, we don’t know what to expect next even in a movie about the draft. As the GM of the Browns Kevin Costner is holding all the cards and nobody knows what he is laying down until all the chips are accounted for. I think the surprises in this movie do the draft justice; it’s not accurate because some of the trades are far too outlandish to ever happen. No NFL team would ever trade so many number one picks, or number two picks for that matter. It’s not that big of a deal when the movie continues to be fun despite the exaggeration though.
This movie is also good for being user friendly to non-football fans. I like the way it shows all the stadiums when teams are introduced and it puts the team name on the screen as well. Not only that but if you had never seen a football game in your life I think after seeing this movie you would at least understand how the NFL draft worked. It would give you unrealistic expectations about what kind of trades might happen on draft day but at least you would know what was going on. There is a lot of silly crap in this movie that I excuse in the scope of it being about football but it does bring the movie down. The mother’s determination to give her son a hard time on the day of the draft is ridiculous, especially for a woman who lived a football life. Not only that but of all days GM Costner also needs another issue to stress about with his girlfriend finding out she is pregnant. Those little unnecessary elements of drama typically annoy me but I overlook them in this case.
I really like the cast of this film. The feel good sports role has become a pinch hitter for Kevin Costner these days when he isn’t pulling a Liam Neeson move and making silly action movies. He’s great in this kind of part though, a believable guy who people like to like. I think he fits the bill for a NFL GM under the pressure of making his boss, coaches, and fans happy all at the same time. I love Denis Leary as the football coach. I am a big fan of Leary and specifically think the energy he brings to all of his roles is perfect for the part of a NFL coach. I’ve never been a big fan of Jennifer Garner but find her surprisingly good in this movie. She plays a no nonsense football woman who doesn’t sully the film with unnecessary drama over being pregnant. This is easily one of my favorite performances from an actress I’ve never been too high on. I mentioned in our review of Monster’s Ball that I thought Sean Combs/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy/whatever he is calling himself these days, had a lot to offer an actor. I think this role is too easy for a guy like him but he is perfectly suited for the role of sports agent. I think he is in fact an outstanding actor when given the opportunity and is probably capable of much more.
In the role of Vontae Mack they cast Chadwick Boseman who is an up and coming actor who will soon be a household name. I liked him in this movie but I am more interested in his future as an actor. Boseman will be seen on screen next summer in Captain America: Civil War when Marvel introduces a new character to their universe. Boseman is signed on to play Black Panther for Marvel. We will first see him in Cap 3 which will follow the Marvel Civil War storyline before he gets his own stand alone film in the years that follow. As a side note, another exciting character introduced in that same film will be a brand new Spiderman created by Marvel in conjunction with Sony.
No football movie is legit without a few cameos from real life football personalities and this movie doesn’t short change us in that regard. They have all the big time people on hand in this movie making cameos. Former players like Deion Sanders and Ray Lewis make cameos as themselves and current player Arian Foster actually plays a part in the movie as the running back and his father is played by former player turned actor Terry Crews. Last but not least, this movie about the Browns does feature a cameo from the franchise’s most famous player, Jim Brown. “Draft specialists” like Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock make cameos to play their guessing games in the movie, like they do in real life. Other notable cameos from big time NFL people are Commissioner Rodger Goddell, Super Bowl winning coach turned analyst Jon Gruden, and one of my personal heroes, sport writer Mike Florio. I don’t actually recall seeing Florio in the movie but noticed his name in the credits and feel compelled to mention him. For football fans who don’t know, ProFootballTalk.com is Florio’s site and I have relied on it for the majority of my NFL info for years now. Great writer with an impressive knowledge of the game and interesting take on NFL news.
This film is rated R and I believe that to specifically be for a single use of the F word. There is some language throughout but hardly enough to garner an R rating, until that one particular universal obscenity near the end of the movie. This makes no matter to me but I find it a bit asinine. I would rather the film be rated R and stay true to the football world than be a watered down version of the real thing. This is still a watered down version of the real thing in many cases though but I still prefer it to have the edge that little bit of profanity gives it.
I overlook quite a bit in this movie simply because it centers on something I’m always excited about. That being said I’ll admit I did not expect to like it and found it to be a pleasant surprise. This is the kind of feel good movie that is perfect to kill time with and I would recommend it to anybody. If you are a football fan it’s right up your alley but even for people who don’t watch football I think there is a lot to like about this one. This movie is easily worth anybody’s time. Although, don’t let it give you false ideas about the Browns. I may love the people that pull for them but their team does them no favors and regularly blunders in the draft. This year they have two first round picks but they had two picks last year too and spent one of them on a QB everyone was steering clear of and ended up in rehab within the year. The problem with the Browns starts and stops with management. There is no consistency and too much impatience. Nevertheless that is a tangent better left alone. Check out this movie if you get a chance but, more importantly, make sure to tune in tonight for the real action.