At our house, the “guilty pleasure” is a staple in the movie diet. While we love to savor nutritional films, we rarely turn down the opportunity to devour cinema junk food, the kind of movie that begs for popcorn, provides nothing but empty calories, and hits the spot for mindless movie entertainment.
Since the mid-1980s Kevin Costner, despite winning an Oscar for directing Dances With Wolves, has become a master of the guilty pleasure. He cut his cinema teeth on No Way Out early in his career before creating such classic cheese as Waterworld, For Love of the Game and The Bodyguard. It’s no surprise that Costner’s third movie of 2014 is another popcorn film we can’t help but devour, a marvelous movie munchie titled Draft Day.
Yes, this is a movie about football, itself the subject of many a guilty pleasure over the years. Like other predictable gridiron efforts, this one tells us everything we need to learn in the first five minutes. Before that first handful of popcorn, we learn that Costner is the general manager of a struggling football team preparing for the NFL draft, that he is cozy with coworker Jennifer Garner, and that his domineering team owner has strong opinions about who the team should draft.
We also pick up that family history clouds the team’s choices, with an opinionated mother who grieves over the recent death of her husband, the man who happened to coach the team until their son, Costner, sacked him. Add to this the standard issue pressure from staff members, eager interns and ambitious football players on this most suspenseful day. The film liberally poaches its ingredients from Jerry Maguire, Any Given Sunday and, most clearly, Moneyball, the brilliant look at the inner workings of a major league baseball team. In fact, because Draft Day chooses to have fun instead of to explore a deep agenda, it could be entitled Moneyball Lite.
Costner has the time of his life. He brings the swagger of an old-time movie star to a role that easily plays to his strengths. The actor easily convinces us he is a manager who is smarter than he appears, an everyman whose command of common sense defies how others define logic, a human who wants to be kind to the people he cares for. The dialogue and situations are tailored for Costner’s natural authenticity even when the plot reveals more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. Never mind that nothing that happens here would ever occur in real life; in reel life the heroes always manage to save the day before the final credits. The only question is how they make it happen and Costner is clearly up to the task.
Adding to the fun are the supporting performances by Ellen Burstyn, magical as the mother; Frank Langella, reliable as the owner; and Chadwick Boseman, convincing as a football player in waiting. For real NFL fans, the discovery of the picture may be Arian Foster, the dedicated vegan, who, in real life, plays for the Houston Texans. This Renaissance athlete who writes poetry can now claim to be a cinema attraction, too.
No matter how predictable the story may be, or how familiar you may find the characters, there’s plenty in Draft Day to create a satisfying trip to the movies. After all, that’s what guilty pleasures are all about: film for the fun of it.
Film Nutritional Value
* Content: Medium. Yes, the film is predictable, and that’s the fun. We don’t go to “guilty pleasures” because they are original. They are the comfort food on the cinema menu.
* Entertainment: High. With Kevin Costner enjoying every moment he’s on screen, and enough authentic footage to make the film look just right, Draft Day delivers a touchdown of fun.
* Message: Low. Rarely does a guilty pleasure offer any message beyond the joy of savoring empty cinema calories.
* Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to fun at the movies is always relevant.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. What fun it can be, after enjoying a guilty pleasure at the movies, to remember the favorite moments and other films that come to mind.
(Draft Day is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language and sexual references.” The film runs 109 minutes.)
3 Popcorn Buckets