Annapolis is the kind of hybrid military movie that can really only be truly enjoyed with diminished expectations and a sharp sense of parody. The film executes all the drills of the genre to completion, but the end result is too familiar and unsatisfying. After all of the naval training, humiliation, sweat, and contrived emotion we get…a monotonous boxing match?
James Franco is Jake Huard, a local boy from the other side of the tracks whose aspirations are to be somebody, unlike his estranged father who has spent his entire life building ships for the military. After a local boxing match, Huard is recruited by Lt. Cmdr. Burton (Wahlberg) to enter the Naval Academy. It’s a no-brainer decision for him; even after being informed that the other recruits have an edge in terms of training. There he meets roommates Twins (Shannon), Estrada (Calderon), and Loo (Fan), as well as Ali (Brewster), the trim drill sergeant who can only serve as a love interest. The man in charge is Cole (Gibson), a fighting machine who ends up as the villain, I guess, because he is the highest ranking officer and likes to torment Huard because of his lack of study skills. Huard jumps through the usual “underdog” hoops before the big fight, which is about as anti-climactic and ho-hum as they come.
Annapolis fails to jump off the screen at any point, mainly because the plot developments are so telegraphed and predictable that you may hear stop-watches beep after they unfold. It’s clear that screenwriter David Collard had no intentions of breaking new ground from a plot standpoint, but even at that the build-up to and the subsequent boxing match is shockingly devoid of emotional impact. A small curve ball is thrown at the film’s climax, but the overall message is still well-worn and dull.
Director Justin Lin utilizes a wide array of quick edits and swelling music to try and ramp up the impact, but more often than not the whole shebang just comes off as stale. The boxing scenes are hard to follow and mainly come off as just a blur. It’s not until Lin goes to a wide shot that we really get an understanding of who is clobbering who.
The performances are decent, but no one emerges from the crowd as a standout. Franco, sporting a brick wall of a six-pack, simply isn’t dynamic enough for the heavy emotional scenes, but as a ripped hero he skips by unharmed. Tyrese Gibson, as one-note as his character is, is convincing as a no-nonsense military man and is certainly not the kind of guy I’d want to be boxing. He could kill me with a pinky and thumb. Jordana Brewster gets to deliver one of the cheesier “love lines” of recent memory, but she is never convincing as an authority figure.
Annapolis finds itself in a quandary when it comes to drumming up audience interest. Those looking for inspiration are better off seeing Glory Road and those in search of action will likely be disappointed with the garden variety boxing offered here. It’s not an inherently bad film, just one that even infrequent moviegoers have seen before.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 108 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sexual content and language.
Theatrical Release: January 27, 2006
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: David Collard
Cast: James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Roger Fan