Did you know that “Annapolis” is a boxing movie? Neither did I, until the movie started rolling. Is there any mention of that in the trailer of the TV ads, or are they all built around that “Officer and a Gentleman” nonsense? Was it the poor performance of “Cinderella Man” that convinced the studio to bury the boxing angle?
No matter, the movie isn’t any good either way. “Annapolis” takes way too many elements from the aforementioned Gere/Gossett movie, but that’s not its biggest problem. Its fatal flaw is that it doesn’t contain a hint of emotional depth, or give the viewer any reason to care a whit about the characters onscreen. David Collard, the movie’s screenwriter, must be a Vulcan.
James Franco stars as Jake, a welder who works across the river from the United States Naval Academy. He has dreamt of going to the academy since childhood, and gets his chance as a last, last, last minute replacement wait-lister. Before he gets there, he meets cute at a local bar with Ali (Jordana Brewster, who could pass for Demi Moore’s cuter little sister), and soon learns that she is one of his superiors at the academy. But that is nothing compared to the relationship he develops with Cole (Tyrese Gibson), his commanding officer. Jake was never one to take orders to begin with, and that character flaw is only magnified in a military environment.
After several run-ins with authority, and causing his classmates to suffer as a result of his laziness, Jake learns about the academy’s boxing tournament, and sees it as an ideal way to lay a few hits on Cole. He bulks up to heavyweight class, thanks to his appetite-blessed roommate Twins (Vicellous Reon Shannon), and finds an unlikely ally in Ali in order to prepare for the big fight.
Man, even talking about the movie is boring. The most maddening thing is that it’s not as though the movie is poorly made (though the pre-fight sequence in the locker room is hilariously bad), or even terribly acted (though Franco shows no range whatsoever). It’s just that there is nothing remotely original, or funny, or thrilling, or likable about it. In fact, Jake pretty much does nothing but challenge authority – needlessly, I might add – throughout the movie. When he gets his ass kicked in the ring by Cole early on, you’re actually happy for Cole, since he’s probably been dying to tag this punk since day one and you’re secretly hoping Jake gets a long overdue lesson on respect.
Jack Valenti can whine all he wants (he no longer heads the MPAA ratings board, but that hasn’t stopped him from whining) about how bootlegs and downloading are killing the movie industry, but in truth, it is movies like “Annapolis” that are killing them. No one asked for this movie to begin with, and the fact that it’s done so ineffectively will guarantee that no one goes to see it. People joke about the slow dumbing down of our society, but we’re not this dumb. Keep making movies like this, though, and we will be.(2 / 5)
This originally ran January 27, 2006 on Bullz-Eye.com.