Walking into the movie theater, I had a very clear checklist outlining my hopes for “Draft Day.”
“Accurately portray the passion and football misery of the city of Cleveland, make it as realistic as possible and give NFL fans an in-depth look as to what goes on behind closed doors in a real NFL front office,” I thought to myself. “If it does all those things well, this film should be a classic.”
After nearly two hours in the theater, my checklist was of little to no use, my thoughts were jumbled and I couldn’t wrap my mind around my opinion of this film.
Part of me thought it was horrible, part of me thought it was brilliant and part of me thought it was a muddled combination of both.
I struggled with my thoughts for upwards of 12 hours — coincidentally, the period of time over which the movie takes place — before I was finally able to sit down and assemble some coherent thoughts.
Let’s start from the vantage point of a Cleveland Browns fan.
“Draft Day” is centered around the Browns organization and fictional General Manager, Sonny Weaver Jr., portrayed by Kevin Costner, and his attempt to revitalize the organization through the 2014 NFL Draft.
Some Browns fans were expecting “Draft Day” to be a football version of the classic “Major League.”
If that was the expectation, “Draft Day” failed, as the two films could not be any more different.
“Major League” had a focus on the city of Cleveland, while all the while it was filmed in Milwaukee and had almost no resemblance to the actual happenings of the Indians organization. The storyline focuses on the team turning things in the right direction, but had plenty of others throughout.
“Draft Day,” on the other hand, was focused on a singular event and just happened to be centered in the city of Cleveland. In other words, while the history of the Cleveland Browns was explained throughout the movie, “Draft Day” could have been set in essentially any other struggling NFL city and would have been fine.
For Browns fans, the movie will certainly be remembered as a good one, but not a great one, because it wasn’t “Cleveland” enough to produce any sort of real pride from Browns fans.
Sure, director Ivan Reitman took us behind the scenes into the Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. Yes, one of the main characters was a collegiate prospect from right here at Ohio State. Yes, there are shots of real live Browns fans celebrating before the 2013 NFL Draft. There just wasn’t enough to turn it into a Cleveland cult-classic.
Yes, the film overall is realistic. The fact that real NFL facilities, players and analysts were used make it very easy to imagine the movie in a real world setting rather than a fictional football fantasy land. The contrived, aforementioned relationships and conversations, however, will turn off a true NFL fan for the most part.
For the average viewer — one who doesn’t care all that much about the NFL or football in general — the movie is a pretty good one.
There are fairly significant storylines outside of the NFL Draft that could appeal to all viewers, but don’t take away from the movie as a whole. A romantic element plays a small-yet-sweet part, there’s plenty of comic relief and there are a couple of emotional moments that will draw in just about every viewer.
In an effort to reel in the non-NFL fans, Reitman takes the time to explain the history of the Cleveland Browns, the history of the NFL Draft and the ins-and-outs of an NFL front office and locker room, painting a great contextual picture for the uninformed viewer.
Again, Reitman made it very clear in the film this was a movie for all audiences, but whether that will help the film or hurt it remains to be seen.
Back to my checklist from the beginning.
Did “Draft Day” accurately portray the passion and football misery of the city of Cleveland?
This is where my confusion began.
Yes, it accurately portrayed Cleveland, but I don’t think it went deep enough. Cleveland’s love for football was portrayed accurately, but not completely.
Was “Draft Day” realistic enough and did it give NFL fans an in-depth look as to what goes on behind the scenes of an NFL front office?
Yes and no. “Draft Day” was realistic in setting, but it wasn’t realistic in the conversations and situations that were being had. But was it unrealistic enough to keep NFL viewers from enjoying the film? I don’t think so.
Finally, could “Draft Day” appeal to the average, non-NFL loving viewer?
Yes. That’s where I believe its strength truly lies. There’s a lot of football, but all of that football is explained. Plus, there are enough storylines outside of the NFL Draft to make it compelling for any viewer.
For Browns fans, “Draft Day” is enjoyable, but not legendary. It’s great to get an in-depth look into the facility, but it doesn’t go deep enough.