Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the losing Cleveland Browns, who gets an intriguing offer on his cellphone during the opening moments of "Draft Day." For a steep price, Sonny can have the hottest young college player on the market, University of Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan. The kid has moves, energy and know-how, but Sonny isn't convinced. Something, it seems, is missing.
That's a fair description of "Draft Day" as well. Blessed with a terrific cast and impressively snazzy direction from the 67-year-old comedy veteran Ivan Reitman ("Stripes," "Ghostbusters"), this enjoyable comedy-drama runs a strong game from start to finish. You don't have to watch the tape too closely, however, to sense its glaring structural weaknesses and an indecisive streak that nearly proves fatal.
Costner, who can elevate just about any material ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," "3 Days to Kill"), is unimpeachable as the stressed-out but impressively even-keeled Sonny. The Jr. after his name suggests father issues, and the film opens with the news that Sonny's girlfriend and co-worker, Ali (Jennifer Garner), is pregnant. These are among the movie's many half-developed plot points, but Costner guides us smoothly through the rough patches.
Squeezed onto the sidelines are too many characters to count, including the hopeful young players Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and Ray Jennings (real-life Texans running back Arian Foster). If they're meant to represent heart, then the hot-shot Callahan (Josh Pence) is all ego, though this is where "Draft Day," written by first-timers Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, fumbles. Sonny keeps trying to uncover Callahan's secret, but never quite finds it. Doping? Gambling? Overall jerkishness? You'll be disappointed at the vagueness of the answer.
Or perhaps you won't care. Reitman directs with such pizazz (wipes, split-screens, triptychs) and packs the field with so many appealing players (Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Sean "Whatever His Name Is" Combs and countless football-world celebs) that it's hard not to get caught up in the fun. "Draft Day" might be a trick play, but it manages to score.
PLOT A hard-luck NFL executive has 12 hours to make a crucial draft pick.
CAST Kevin Costner, Denis Leary, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman
BOTTOM LINE The plot wobbles like a sacked quarterback, but this sports-comedy runs a good game thanks to a sharp cast and zippy direction from Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters").