Is the NFL draft really that big a deal? I mean, in comparison to the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Apocalypse? It’s a big deal for the NFL and ESPN, no doubt, and “Draft Day” serves as 110 minutes of product placement for both. The league’s logo, underscored by the stentorian hype of Chris Berman, pops up almost as frequently as do the cellphones and multi-screen formats in veteran director Ivan Reitman’s attempt to squeeze comedy and drama from what is essentially a crass exercise in capitalism.
With the hours to draft day ticking away (the time remaining periodically appears on screen a-la “24”; it does not add suspense), fictional Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) faces some tough decisions. He wants to emerge from the shadow of his late dad, the revered former GM, and field a winning team of his own. But the team’s meddlesome owner (Frank Langella) insists he pick the number one prospect, Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), who seems too good to be true. Weaver’s arrogant new head coach (Denis Leary) wants him to keep their present quarterback and pick a defensive player, like linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman). Then there’s Ray Jennings (real-life running back Arian Foster of the Houston Texans), the son of a former Browns’ player; he’s loaded with talent but lacking in maturity. Meanwhile, other GMs circle Weaver to exploit his dilemma and get a good deal. Not the best day for his mother (Ellen Burstyn) to nag him about spreading dad’s ashes on the practice field, or his assistant and secret squeeze Ali (Jennifer Garner) to announce she’s pregnant.