There is only one reason I agreed to screen "Annapolis" -- James Franco. Sure, he's pretty but the boy can act. "Spiderman" did little to demonstrate this, "Freaks and Geeks" and "The James Dean Story", however, did.
Judging within its own obvious stereotype -- poor boy vows to succeed in fancy military school as promised to beloved dead mother -- it was surprisingly harmless. However, 'Annapolis' has very little to do with the Navy and everything to do with boxing. The film is plot-flimsy and character-strong -- more 'Rocky' than the trailer lets on.
Franco is Jake Huard, a young riveter building Navy ships along with his brother and father. The shipyard where he works every day actually faces Annapolis and his own desire to attend the esteemed naval academy taunts him. Merely by pestering his local congressman, he is magically admitted, despite his shoddy grades.
In some bizarre effort to recreate the Richard Gere-Louis Gossett Jr. relationship in 1982's "Officer and a Gentleman," the script calls for thick tension between Jake and his commanding officer, Lt. Cole, played by Tyrese Gibson. Instead, the prescribed hostility felt too rushed and automated; I found other relationships far more interesting.
For example, Jake rooms with an overweight black kid, nicknamed "Twins", played effortlessly by Vicellous Reon Shannon. The two form an unlikely bond as Jake consistently drives other roommates away with his misbehavior. Finally, Jake asks Twins why he stays. "Because you are my Mississippi, thatís why," he says. Twins explains that in Arkansas, his home state, their favorite state is Mississippi because they ineveitably grab all the attention for being the worst in everything, thereby taking all the negative attention off poor 'ol Arkansas. With Jake in the hot seat, Twins can avoid heavy scrutiny.
Being so obviously yummy, Jake must
have a love interest. After initially mistaking her for a hooker, Jake meets Ali, played by Jordana Brewster, yet another commanding officer at Annapolis. Sparks fly but thankfully, the script doesn't wander distractedly down lover's lane but instead contentedly implies their eventual courtship.
Sure, Franco is serious eye candy but it was Donnie Wahlberg as Lt. Cmdr. Burton that got me hot. He has very few lines but carries a quiet, steady strength that I'd really like to see more of. Chi McBride as boxing Coach McNally, provided steady comic relief.
For me, the quality of a Hollywood-style film is measured in three ways: How often did I involuntarily roll my eyes? How much would I have paid for this and not felt ripped off? And, finally, was there any residue - did I think about it the next day? So, based on those criteria: I rolled my eyes just once, "Annapolis" is a $6.00 film and sure enough, in the light of day, I suddenly had a new appreciation for the crafty wisdom of Arkansas.
© 2006 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 2/1/06
USA - 2006