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Annapolis
2006 - PG-13 - 88 Mins.
Director: Justin Lin
Producer: Damien Saccani
Written By: David Collard
Starring: James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg, Vicellous Reon Shannon
Review by: Greg Ursic
Official Site: annapolis.movies.com/no_flash.html
   

One of these things is not like the other...
Jake is a “rivet”, a kid from the wrong side of the river who works as a welder in the belly of the fighting ships that the US Navy sends to patrol the seven seas. But steady employment, the cornerstone of the blue collar dream, is not enough for Jake. He dreams of being accepted into the prestigious Annapolis Naval Academy which has been graduating military minds for the past 160 years, and lies but a stone throw away. Proving that persistence is the key, Jake ultimately wins a freshman spot and the opportunity to distinguish himself. His joy is short lived however, when he discovers that getting in is the easy part.

While I have come to accept the "scourge of the January effect", where movie studios shovel out the drek from their cinematic stables, it doesn’t mean I have to suffer in silence. If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for recruitment ads: there’s talk of honor, teamwork, determination and doing one's best. The trailers are also misleading, as little time is spent examining the individuals, and what has brought them to the institution or what the institution stands for. Instead, the bulk of the story focuses on Jake’s physical and mental preparation for "The Brigades", a boxing tournament that has been held at Annapolis since 1941. And this is where the confusion begins.

James Franco had best hope that he gets called back for several more 'Spiderman' sequels because his recent work as the doe-eyed Tristan in 'Tristan and Isolde' and Jake in this movie won’t be scaring up many scripts. While the writers clearly deserve some of the blame, Franco's Jake simply lacks passion. Beyond his pretty boy looks, there is nothing even remotely inspiring about him. Tyrese Gibson meanwhile overcompensates as Lt. Cole, the company commander, who, when he isn’t screaming at the top of his lungs and belittling everyone in sight, sounds like he’s doing a bad Tone Loc impression. While there should be palpable tension between Jake and Cole, it just doesn’t ring true, which reveals their sham relationship for what it is. And no offense to Donnie Wahlberg, but when his character is held up as the epitome of the naval ideal, then there’s clearly something amiss. Jordana Brewster has the most to be upset about however, as she’s relegated to the background as Jake’s unlikely love interest. But wait, it gets worse.

Whether 'Annapolis' was intended as a “reimagining” of "An Officer and A Gentleman" (the similarities between the two are unmistakable: an outsider trying to join a respected military institution, another recruit who is humiliated when he can’t get through the obstacle course, pushups in the rain, etc.) Franco and Gibson however lack the dynamic shared by Lou Gossett Jr. and Richard Gere. For example, in the pivotal scene in "Officer..." Gere, broken both physically and mentally, responds to demands that he quit with “I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to go!" This scene’s equivalent in Annapolis sees Gibson yelling (I’m paraphrasing here) “You’re not good enough to be here” and Franco's non-plussed rejoiner “I won’t quit”. Even less convincing are the 'Rocky' overtones.

I don’t mean to sound sexist, but how is the audience supposed to take Jordana Brewster seriously as a boxing coach. While her model good looks should not be a reason to exclude acceptance of her character as a mentor, there needs to be some hint as to the source of her pugilistic credentials, yet no explanation is offered. At least Donnie Wahlberg looks like he’s been batted around the ring a few times. I was also annoyed by the way they shot the fight sequences, with superfluous 360 pans and a succession of rapid edits that left me dizzy and ultimately disinterested.

As I watched 'Annapolis,' I thought of a screenwriter friend of mine who once remarked that “nobody sets out to make a bad film.” There initially may have been the seed of a decent script, but at some point, someone, for whatever reason, decided to combine 'Rocky' with 'An Officer and a Gentleman.' Maybe they thought it would be twice as good? Whatever their motivation, that someone should never again be allowed to use writing instruments or touch a keyboard of any kind. While I could look past the poorly written dialogue, weak acting and borderline plagiarism, I was repeatedly stuck by one thing: for all the talk of honor and teamwork, the collection of plebes on parade proved to be one of the most dishonorable and self-interested groups of whiners ever assembled.

To mangle an old proverb, and in summary "Annapolis today will keep the crowds away." Sorry, I couldn't resist.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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