'Draft Day': What the Critics Are Saying

8:21 AM PST 04/11/2014 by Ashley Lee

Ivan Reitman's football drama stars Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella and Sam Elliott.

Kevin Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns in Draft Day, Ivan Reitman's football drama that chronicles the annual process of negotiation and subterfuge that precedes the NFL Draft, out Friday.

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Using real ESPN announcers and plenty of commentary to help non-football fans get familiarized, the film also stars Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella and Sam Elliott. The Summit Entertainment feature is expected to score between $11 and $14 million during its opening weekend.

Read what top critics are saying about Draft Day below:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy wrote in his review that Draft Day is "an entirely conventional serio-comic sports world melodrama that pushes its buttons with undeniable professional finesse." Though Costner is featured "in his most effective full star turn in perhaps a decade" as Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr., his deliberate pacing is much slower than his co-stars' -- a thoughtful approach that hints at an unspoken, complicated backstory, but also leads McCarthy to admit that "Draft Day is never quite as funny as you somehow think it's going to be."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott said Reitman "does an efficient job disguising this marshmallowy melodrama of masculinity in crisis as a tough sports movie" that heavily promotes the NFL, with a ton of appearances from past and present players and executives, plus sweeping aerial views of stadiums in franchise cities: "You will not hear anything about concussions or sexual assault or the exploitation of college athletes, though you may notice that this is a story of (mostly) white men buying and selling the labor of (mostly) African-Americans," wrote Scott. Though "it's a shallow and evasive movie, built more around corporate wish fulfillment than around reality," he does note that the split-screen editing is effective and that "Costner revels in his undiminished powers of persuasion."

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The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips gave the film 2½ stars -- less of a fan of the editing's "ridiculous overuse," he wrote that Draft Day is "a moderately engaging wish-fulfillment fantasy" that's far from Moneyball, "but not bad for what it is." He also added that "Jennifer Garner plays the woman with the ledger, blessed with a bottomless well of patient understanding, if not enough decent scenes."

The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan called the film "an earnest and way-contrived endeavor that manages, due largely to Costner's efforts, to be genially diverting in a gee-whiz kind of way" from the less pleasant NFL-related headlines. "It can be amusing to watch all this inside football stuff if you are an NFL fan," while others will still "survive" it.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, on the other hand, assured that "even people who aren't football fans will appreciate the maneuvers and the high-stakes trading, the make-or-break strategies and the careers in the balance." The film's "one and only problem" is Costner's dependability: "Because we're sure of Costner, we're sure of Sonny, and because we're sure of Sonny, we're pretty sure of where the movie is heading. The good news is that Draft Day is only predictable to a point. It has moves we can't anticipate and gets better and more unexpected as it goes along."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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