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April 18, 2014

‘Draft Day’ scores a field goal at the theater

-- — “Draft Day” (Drama: 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, and Frank Langella

Director: Ivan Reitman

Rated: PG-13 (Profanity and sexual references)

Movie Review:
This enjoyable movie is a drama rather than a sports screenplay. Audiences will see no action on the football field. Instead, it is a behind-the-scenes look at what a general manager must do to create a preferred team. That general manger is Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner). Weaver, through negotiations, has a chance to pick the top draft prospect, but he has other ideas about how to create the perfect team in Cleveland. The problem is those ideas do not gel well with the team’s owner, Anthony Molina (Langella), or Coach Penn (Leary).

The narrative described above is what this film handles best, a general manager’s chance to revive a football team with good draft selections. Even if one does not know football or the negotiations that happen during the draft, this film is still engaging.

“Draft Day” thrives because of the work that Sonny, his staff and others do to make their team better. Football is a big money sport, and the business aspects are front and center. More important, the film shows the labor of general managers and their scheming to get the players they want. Weaver’s job as portrayed is taxing. He must run the team while also recruiting the best talents to boost his organization. His tasks are a jumble of keen maneuvers.

However, the story waffles by taking on unnecessary arcs that distract and are unneeded. Weaver is dealing with two family matters, one of which is his domineering mother, Barb, played by Ellen Burstyn. She is nice in this part. She is a talented, seasoned actress. However, Burstyn’s role seems atypical and mainly presented as a means to get to know Costner’s Sonny Weaver. Barb intrudes into Sonny’s life at an inopportune time. If Barb had been the wife of a football coach for many decades, it is unlikely she would not understand the demands placed on her son just hours before the NFL draft. She is also unneeded as a means to get to know Sonny.

The same is true of Jennifer Garner’s role as Costner’s love interest, Ali. Garner is beautiful as all get out, but the insertion of her character as a romantic interest with a current problem involving Sonny is also unneeded. The role is OK, yet the problems they have with each other could have been resolved at another time.

Several unnecessary incidents are placed in this film. Some of these instances appear comical, such as a new intern (played by Griffin Newman). These get in the way of what is a good story. These parts are additional material to extend the movie’s runtime. Too much transpires in one 24-hour period than is necessary. These matters do not complicate the plot or make it worse, but they are useless tidbits.

“Draft Day” is still a worthwhile movie, but it could be better. Costner and several others deliver. The backdoor negotiations between Costner, his staff and several other general managers of other NFL teams is engaging. Even if one knows nothing of football, the film does a nice job of not becoming too involved with terminology that some in the audience could find confusing.

Grade: B- (Draft a reason to see it today.)

 

“Rio 2” (Animation/Comedy: 1 hour, 41 minutes)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement and Jamie Foxx

Director: Carlos Saldanha

Rated: G (Violence)

Movie Review:
First rule of making a sequel is not to try to upstage the prequel, which was considered a good movie. “Rio 2” attempts to top “Rio” (2011) that was directed by Saldanha also. The result is an entertaining movie that lacks the unique flair of the original.

A large cast of well-known actors, comedians, singers and rappers grace this film with their voices. The main bird returns, Blu, who is voice by Eisenberg. Blu is a worrisome blue macaw. He, his wife, Jewel (Hathaway), and their three children are the only know macaws on the planet.

This changes when they wander into the Brazilian rain forests and discover flocks of macaws.

Some great musical numbers exist that make the film an easy diversion. That and nice visuals make the film a treat. It is easily enjoyable, although its story is not as endearing as the last. However, story elements will not matter to small fries. Children will love the fancy colors, the adventure and comedy offered.

Those colorful extras are what producers are counting on to sell this film.

Interestingly, this is enough to keep children and most adults entertained adequately to make it to the end.   

Grade: B- (One macaw was fun; more are grand.)

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