- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

James Dean might have saved “Annapolis,” the story of a rebel without a clue who joins the Navy for personal redemption.

Instead, we get James Franco, an actor with an eerie resemblance to the screen icon but who lacks the gravitas Mr. Dean brought to his three films.

The story cuts and pastes “An Office and a Gentleman” alongside “Rocky” and any number of other film boilerplates without improving on them.

We’re left with a flat-footed boxing story that sails ahead solely on heartfelt intentions.

Young, headstrong Jake Huard (Mr. Franco) is making ends meet as a riveter and amateur boxer when he learns his application to the Naval Academy at Annapolis has been belatedly accepted.

He’s hardly the military type — we’re told he’s a rule breaker, but there’s little in Mr. Franco’s angelic face to back up the claim. However, his dear, departed mum wanted him to join the Navy, so off he heads to Maryland.

Jake meets the usual stereotypes there, from the hardworking Asian to the fiery Hispanic destined for a blowup with an ethnic-baiting commander.

Best of all is Twins (Vicellous Reon Shannon), the plump plebe willing to do anything to reward his small town’s faith in him.

They’re friendly and supportive, but Jake isn’t sure he fits in. Studying doesn’t come easily to him, and he bristles whenever his hulking commanding officer Cole (Tyrese Gibson) barks.

Doesn’t Jake realize that’s standard issue in military films, the tough-as-nails commander who forces the hero to be a better man?

Ali (Jordana Brewster), another superior officer, might just convince Jake to stick it out, or at least hang on until their robotic love story can run its course.

“Annapolis” follows the will-he-or-won’t-he-quit formula before settling on the Brigades, an in-school boxing competition that will let Jake punch the stuffing out of Cole — or vice versa.

Jake’s self-discovery is “Annapolis’ ” overriding theme, but the film teases us with a bevy of unfulfilled subplots. What about Lt. Cmdr. Burton (Donnie Wahlberg), who teaches Jake the finer points of boxing but floats in and out of the story like a butterfly without ever stinging like a bee? Or Chi McBride’s boxing-class teacher, who exists solely to spout a few clever quips — and boy does the film need that humor — before fading into the backdrop?

While the fighting sequences here snap like a Larry Holmes jab, the emotional payoffs barely lay a glove on us. That’s particularly true with Jake’s father, a character who emerges at film’s end for the cliched reaction shots.

The Naval Academy objected to “Annapolis’ ” script for technical reasons, namely scenes involving hazing-like activities and the drills plebes endure to make the grade. Savvy filmgoers will squirm over too many Dr. Phil speeches sandwiched around characters we’ve seen too many times before.


TITLE: “Annapolis”

RATING: PG-13 (Violent boxing sequences, strong language and mature themes)

CREDITS: Directed by Justin Lin. Written by David Collard.

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

WEB SITE: https://annapolis.



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