Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Million Dollar Arm vs. Draft Day, two sports films that challenge conventionality.
Premise Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm stars Jon Hamm as J.B. Bernstein: a sports agent whose career reaches an all-time low after a botched signing deal. Desperate to get back in the game, Bernstein begins his search for the next Major League Baseball player in the most unsuspecting of places: on the cricket pitches in India. The story follows Bernstein as he brings his recruits back to America and attempts to translate their knack for cricket into MLB-worthy skills. Staying true to the essence of Disney sports movies, Million Dollar Arm touches on themes of family and love, while proving, once again, that there’s always a place in our hearts for the underdog. Draft Day is a film by Summit Entertainment that focuses on the pressures felt by the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver, on NFL draft day. Kevin Costner plays the fictional GM and his job in the film is to select the latest talent from a pool of college players, ultimately making or breaking their careers; a task easier said than done in a country that sees football as a way of life. While both films are guaranteed to get our blood pumping, we’re worried the technical aspects of the draft could go right over our heads. While Draft Day promises to excite, Million Dollar Arm seems to tackle a wider range of topics. Advantage: Million Dollar Arm
SportBoth films revolve around the big leagues, but which sport is more enjoyable to watch? Football films have been done in the past (Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights, Varsity Blues) and they’ve been done well. We’re not opposed to watching muscular men run around in tights, and we have to admit there’s a compelling intensity to football. On the other hand, in Million Dollar Arm it’s refreshing to see a film that focuses on more than one sport and addresses the cultural nuances between the two. Nevertheless, in a category focused on sport, we think Draft Day puts a stronger focus on the nitty-gritty details of the game. Advantage: Draft Day
CastMillion Dollar Arm stars Jon Hamm. Known as the dapper and disturbed Don Draper in Madmen, it appears that this role isn’t a far departure from the hard exterior/soft interior characters Hamm has tackled in the past. Hamm’s love interest is played by the quirky Lake Bell (we loved her as Ashton Kutcher’s hot, weirdo coworker in No Strings Attached). The multi-talented, Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin also makes an appearance as Ray Poitevint: the headstrong scout that accompanies Bernstein to Mumbai. Costner is on a bit of a roll these days; he kicked off 2014 with lead roles in 3 Days to Kill and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Jennifer Garner plays Costner’s leading lady. Coming off the heels of her most recent film, Dallas Buyers Club, we’re eager to see if Garner continues her hot streak… but not that eager. While Draft Day boasts a seasoned cast, seeing Hamm play a lead role on the big screen seems the more exciting prospect.Advantage: Million Dollar Arm
Going Against the BookIn both films, the protagonists are forced to take huge risks for the sake of their careers; Bernstein has to salvage his job as a sports agent, while Weaver has to save his team from falling apart. The sports realm is known for being traditional, which is why these two stories are so appealing: the characters go against the grain and challenge conventionality, hoping that their sacrifices will pay off. In Million Dollar Arm, it’s clear how Bernstein breaks the rules: no one has ever recruited cricket players for the MLB. In Weaver’s case, the rebellion is a little more obscure. We know he must make a few questionable moves—why else would his mother berate him over Twitter?—but we aren’t let in on the details. While Million Dollar Arm ventures into unchartered territory, Draft Day has spiked our curiosity; what did he do to create such a ruckus? I guess we’ll have to watch to find out. Advantage: Draft Day
Macho FactorFor the most part, watching a sports movie is like taking a hit of testosterone; all of a sudden you’re struck with a craving for wings and beer. Jokes aside, there’s an inherent (heteronormative) manliness linked to sports and this category aims to determine which film taps deeper into that source. Jon Hamm exudes a sense of macho-ness (have you seen his chest hair?), but his character presents himself in a vulnerable state when it comes to love and his career. Based on what we can gather from the trailer, Bernstein ends up renouncing his bachelor ways to be with his neighbor-turned-lover, Brenda. While there appears to be a love story in Draft Day as well, it doesn’t strike us as the soft, melt your heart kind of narrative. Exhibit A: Jennifer Garner’s character is sexualized by means of her sports knowledge; this woman is sexy because she can always talk football. While Million Dollar Arm undoubtedly gives off masculine vibes, Draft Day strikes us as the more macho of the two.Advantage: Draft Day
The VerdictPitting these two films against one another really embraces the competitive spirit of sport. While both teams played well, we’re worried that Million Dollar Arm could be too sappy for our liking. Touchdown, Draft Day.Winner: Draft Day
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