Draft Day

April 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary
Directed by: Ivan Reitman (“No Strings Attached”)
Written by: Scott Rothman (debut) and Rajiv Joseph (debut)

Think back to that amazing scene in the Oscar-nominated 2011 sports drama “Moneyball” where we witness Brad Pitt wheeling and dealing on the phone with other Major League Baseball general managers trying to trade a few of his players to make his Oakland As team better. Remember the energy of those phone calls and the excitement every time he hung up the phone and took another step closer to closing the deal? Remember Jonah Hill on the other side of the desk watching Pitt in awe as he utilized his time and his charm to get what he wanted? The drama of that scene, even though it’s just someone basically talking on the phone, was palpable. In “Draft Day,” director Ivan Reitman tries to spread that feeling across an entire day – NFL Draft Day – but fails at hooking us from the start. It’s not until the film’s waning moments when “Draft Day” chunks a Hail Mary and things hit a climax. By then, however, the corporate NFL influence has been caked on so much, the romance behind the sport is gone.

Written by rookie screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph and led on the set by veteran director Ivan Reitman (“No Strings Attached,”) “Draft Day,” the first film ever allowed to use the NFL brand, is, in fact, a commercial for the pro football league. It’s a bit hard to consider this “product placement” since the product is the actual movie itself, but producers go a bit overboard in their attempt to appease their sponsors with things like flyovers of NFL stadiums. That, however, is the least of “Draft Day’s” problems. Bottom line: the first 90 minutes of Rothman and Joseph’s script just isn’t interesting or inspiring. In those 90 minutes, we watch Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) attempt to land the first pick of the NFL Draft through a slew of unconventional tactics.

None of the conflict between characters during the first half of the movie works. From Sonny butting heads with the owner of the team (Frank Langella) and the coach (Denis Leary) to his in-house relationship with the team’s finance director (Jennifer Garner) to his run ins with upset players who think he’s trying to replace them, the narrative yields no dramatic results. It’s unfortunate since the NFL Draft, especially for fans of the league who love all the behind-the-scenes access, is probably one of the most exciting experiences a young football player could have. In “Draft Day,” Reitman and crew manage to suck all that exhilaration and personality from the story, and all that’s left are a few fancy logos and Deion Sanders.

No Strings Attached

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline
Directed by: Ivan Reitman (“My Super Ex Girlfriend”)
Written by: Elizabeth Meriwether (debut)

To the average moviegoer, terms like “romantic comedy” and the less chivalrous-sounding “chick flick” are probably synonyms. A few clever filmmakers have discovered ways to divert from the typical clichés and create those rare date movies men and women can sit through without wondering why the hell they’re on a date with someone who enjoys this crap. In the last five years: “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Ghost Town,” “(500) Days of Summer,” and almost everything directed by Judd Apatow have been noteworthy contributions to the generally watered-down genre.

Then there are movies like “No Strings Attached,” a rom-com so desperate to be the next “The 40 Year Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up” (and thus peeling away the “chick flick” label) it only manages sporadic moments of originality before reverting back into safety-first Kate Hudson-mode.

It’s unfortunate, since “Strings” is starred by Natalie Portman, who comes off the most impressive role of her career in “Black Swan.” She rarely flaunts her comedic chops, much less in a rom-com as easily accessible as this. Here, she plays Emma, a cynical medical student-in-residence who opts for a casual sex-only relationship with Adam (Kutcher), a soft-hearted TV production assistant she’s known since his horny teenage years. Of course, with copulation comes those icky things called feelings and before another box of Trojans opens, the sexcapades have turned into fully-clothed spooning sessions (a no-no in “friends with benefits” etiquette).

While Portman is still charming despite the lightweight and occasionally raunchy dialogue by first-time screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether, the same can’t be said for Kutcher’s coyness. At least in a movie like “(500) Days of Summer,” actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was believable as a genuinely nice guy who falls in love with an icy princess. Kutcher’s mushy façade, however, is pitiful. It’s hard to accept him as a hopeless romantic when he’s drunk-dialing girls and asking them if they know of a place where he can put his boner.

At times, director Ivan Reitman (“My Super Ex Girlfriend”) seems like he might cross the line and actually give these characters spines. But Reitman, who has never really gotten any dirtier than campers reading smut in “Meatballs,” is out of his element. Forcing the issue only makes matters worse, especially in a movie that mistakes a little fun between the sheets with edge.