View Full Version : 'Annapolis' unworthy of attention

01-26-06, 11:01 AM
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Review: 'Annapolis'
'Annapolis' unworthy of attention
Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal

The most unlikely thing about "Annapolis" is that it was delivered by director Justin Lin, who drew rave reviews in 2002 with the independent hit "Better Luck Tomorrow."

We might call this film his reality check, as raves are unlikely and hard-shell criticism is all but guaranteed. That's because his movie is as common as they come. In fact, even infrequent moviegoers should recognize it as a merger of similar fare, including "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Top Gun" and "Rocky."

The characters are mere sketches, the film's dramatic moments are overplayed, and the script is only functional. Because the cast is interesting, "Annapolis" is watchable, but with so many better things in theaters it seems a waste to spend an hour and a half with such mediocrity.

The best part of the movie is James Franco, the talented, young actor who plays Jake Huard, an unlikely first-year admit to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Although a so-so student, Huard gets into the academy with persistence and extraordinary skill as a boxer.

Once in, however, his rebellious attitude goes against the school's disciplined structure and, in particular, that of his company commander, Midshipman Lt. Cole (Tyrese Gibson). Cole, who was admitted to the school after a stint in the Marines, understands that an officer's mistakes can cost lives, so he rides Huard in an attempt to make or break him.

Cole is the archetypal military leader: loud, tough, no-nonsense and arrogant. But there's not much more to him. In part that's because the Dave Collard script is lackluster, but it's also because Gibson isn't yet able to improve on what's written.

Franco is talented enough to give Huard dimension but because he's surrounded by such cookie-cutter characters it doesn't much matter. Among the supporting cast is the beautiful superior that Huard wants to date (Jordana Brewster), the overweight friend who is struggling with the academy's physical requirements (Vicellous Shannon), and the supportive officer who wants Huard to make it (Donnie Wahlberg).

Along with serving as a military drama, "Annapolis" is also a boxing film. That's because the Naval Academy's Brigade boxing competition is key to the plot. It's in that competition that Huard can face off against Cole without fear of punishment, and the harder Cole pushes, the more Huard wants to fight him.

Much of the film is dedicated to Huard's preparation for the fight, and it's supposed to be a key moment when Huard asks Brewster's character to help him. It's a scene that's supposed to demonstrate his acceptance of a key lesson: that everyone needs help. What it really does is prompt questions because nothing in the film would indicate that Brewster knows anything about boxing.

And when the characters do get in the ring, you would think it was a matter of life and death. Lin uses swelling music and deafening sound effects to jolt viewers to attention. Unfortunately, he has overdone things so much that regular filmgoers might view the boxing matches as borderline parody.

Too bad because Lin is nursing a promising future. But judging by "Annapolis" and his next project - the third installment of "The Fast and the Furious" - he's prepared to let artistry take a back seat to easy money.


Hartman's grade: C+

Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sexual content and language

Length: 108 minutes


01-27-06, 10:20 AM
January 27, 2006
From the Baltimore Sun
Academy grads see the film and don't give up the ship
By Carl Schoettler
Sun Reporter

A group of Naval Academy grads who watched a preview of Annapolis this week agreed the movie was a pretty good yarn but that it diminished the "majesty" of the academy.

Lawrence Heyworth III, Class of 1982 and a vice president of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, called it "An Officer and A Gentleman light."

"It would have been a lot more entertaining to me if there had been a theater full of midshipmen, just to hear the reaction of the midshipmen to the inaccuracies of the movie, and there were some," said Heyworth, of Annapolis.

The film follows a working-class kid from Annapolis as he tries to make it through his plebe year. His battle for the brigade heavyweight boxing championship is the film's climax. The boxing championships are an Annapolis tradition that in the Class of 1968 pitted Marines James Webb, who became secretary of the Navy, against Col. Oliver L. North, the Vietnam veteran who became an Iran-contra figure.

Heyworth found the portrayal of the Academy itself "detracting."

"It just wasn't anything like the majesty, if you will, of Ernest Flagg's architecture of the Academy's design in the late 19th century."

Flagg, a New York architect, designed the commandant's house, Bancroft Hall, one of the world's largest college dorms, and the Chapel, perhaps the jewel of the campus.

Because the producers and the Academy couldn't reach an agreement, Annapolis was filmed in Philadelphia. Girard College, a high school for disadvantaged boys founded in 1848, stood in for the Academy. There's a fleeting glimpse of a Philadelphia street that purports to be Annapolis, but not much else of the town. Jake Huard, the protagonist, comes out of a job building warships with his father in Annapolis.

"There are no shipbuilders in Annapolis!" says Dave Church, Class of 1960, who served 21 years on active duty in the Navy.

He also noted that lots of midshipmen come from modest backgrounds. He's the son of a chief petty officer, an enlisted man in the Navy. His daughter, Kim Parker, 37, graduated with the Class of 1991. She served five years on active duty as a supply officer on a submarine tender in Italy. She's now a mother of two.

"He was in my company," she exclaims, when Scott Carson, the film's technical adviser, appears on screen in the role of the brigade commander at a disciplinary hearing.

Heyworth, Dan Proulx, Class of 1982, and Bill Dawson, also Class of '82, who is still on active duty as a captain, found the depiction of the Academy's Memorial Hall "shabby" and "scruffy."

Memorial Hall honors graduates killed in action or awarded the Medal of Honor.

"Memorial Hall at the Academy is just breathtaking." Heyworth says. "It's a very solemn place. It's a hallowed place, and it just wasn't treated very well."

Heyworth and Proulx thought many "exercises" in the film, push-ups in the rain at night, for example, would be considered hazing and forbidden.

"I think Dan Proulx said it best," Heyworth says. "They had some of the technical details correct. Like what we call 'table salt.'"

That's a sort of rhyming slang at the mess table.

"It's a silly kind of thing," Heyworth says. "But it's all part of memorization and responding under pressure."

But they all caught insignia changes between scenes and errors in name tags and similar lapses in accuracy. They noted that 4,000 midshipmen move about the yard at the Academy. The film could barely muster a couple of platoons. And the salutes were just plain sloppy.

They all thought the flirtatious relationship between Jake, the plebe, and Ali, a junior, an unlikely violation of rules.

"And the kiss at the end," Heyworth says, "come on, give me a break! She'd get her butt kicked if she'd done that here."