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"Annapolis": If this project were a plebe, it would get detention
Special to The Seattle Times
An alternate title for this atrocious clutter of morality clichés could be "A Plebeian and a Gentleman." But that's giving too much credit to just one of the cinematic muses "Annapolis" desperately wants to follow.
Ostensibly the story of a hard-luck screw-up who finds personal integrity, "Annapolis" is a chaotic muddle of style, structure and storytelling. Part boxing movie and part military drama, the facile script is awash in clumsy exposition, forced conflict with little or no narrative setup and visual and plot formulas from a pantheon of boxing or boot-camp sagas.
Jake Huard (James Franco) is a shipbuilder and amateur boxer with something to prove, but we never really learn what. Jake's blue-collar life on the docks is shadowed by the sunset-lit sheen of the United States Naval Academy just across the river. (Denied access by the Navy, the production used an old reform school in Philadelphia to stand in for the real location.)
A twist of fate gets Jake a last-minute spot as a plebe (freshman). He immediately starts butting heads with Cole (Tyrese Gibson), his class-company instructor who's also an ex-Marine and now Naval Academy upperclassman. Why Cole hates Jake so much is anyone's guess, but there's no guessing involved when it comes to the grudging admiration the two will gain for each other in the movie's final ludicrous moments.
The boxing angle culminates with "The Brigades," intra-class battles that are apparently part of the Annapolis mystique, which pit Jake and Cole in their heaviest confrontation. But the whole boxing thing is clumsily forced into a movie that would have been more interesting focusing on the academic and moral rigor at one of the world's most prestigious institutions.
Among the subplots is an upper-class love interest (Jordana Brewster) who's off-limits until the end-of-term ceremony in which the cry "plebes no more!" rises up with a sea of white hats.
In the acting department, both Brewster and Franco are as lightweight as they are pretty. Only Gibson shows any flair.
"Annapolis" was directed by Justin Lin. His 2002 debut feature, "Better Luck Tomorrow," was an indie favorite about a group of privileged, corrupt Asian teenagers. Compared with such an intriguing first film, "Annapolis" is a bomb.
Ted Fry: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company