DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    James Franco as JAKE HUARD
    Tyrese Gibson as MIDSHIPMAN LT. COLE
    Jordana Brewster as ALI
    Donnie Walburg as LT. COMMANDER BURTON
    Chi McBride as MCNALLY
    Vicellous Shannon as TWINS

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Touchstone

    Directed by: Justin Lin
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I like a good story of military training. In fact, I consider “An Officer and a Gentleman” one of the best of its kind. It worked as both an inspirational flick as well as love story. However, it also broke the mold, so many films that followed seemed a pale imitation.

This was partially the problem with “Annapolis.” The film tells the story of Jake Huard (James Franco), a riveter in the shipyards who makes it into Annapolis, the elite Naval Academy. He enters the school with full excitement, but when he faces the challenges of learning his history, hardening his outer shell and dealing with an overbearing company commander (Tyrese Gibson), he starts to doubt himself.

Oh, and the movie’s about boxing. You wouldn’t know this from the previews, of course, because there’s only a brief flash of a boxing scene in them. But trust me... this movie has almost as much boxing in it as a “Rocky” flick. For some strange reason, all the marketing leans exclusively to the military drama and shies from the boxing.

However, that doesn’t stop the film itself to be partly a male version of “Million Dollar Baby.” The show opens with Huard in a boxing match, and the climax happens during the Brigades, an annual inner-Navy boxing event.

I understand that boxing is meant to be a metaphor for surviving the grueling training at Annapolis, but isn’t the grueling training enough for a film?

Still, the weakest link in this film is James Franco. While he’s been in some hits (count the “Spider-Man” movies in those), he really doesn’t have the chops to carry a film himself. It’s not that he hasn’t had a chance. Over the past six months, he’s been point man on several films, including “The Great Raid” and “Tristan+Isolde.”

While some movies have been well done, like “The Great Raid” (much more attributable to the remarkable true story and an otherwise strong cast that includes Benjamin Bratt and Joseph Fiennes), others have kinda stunk (like the lukewarm “Tristan+Isolde”).

I like Franco as Harry Osbourne in the “Spider-Man” movies, but he’s just not strong enough to carry a film. And this really shows in “Annapolis.”

It doesn’t help that there are some serious character flaws. Ultimately, Huard should understand the reason for the harsh training at Annapolis. It’s worked for years, and it’s designed to graduate officers rather than just sailors. Huard is too much of a hot head, ready to jump ship when the going is too rough. He never accepts the fact that without the training to weed out the weak officers, the Navy would crumble under poor leadership in battle.

The DVD comes with several deleted scenes that include the director’s commentary. There’s two featurettes on the disc, one that tells the story of making the film, and the other that gives history behind the shooting of the brigades. There’s also a decent director’s commentary for the feature itself.

If you like cliches, you’ll love “Annapolis.” However, it has the unfortunate feeling of been there, done that, which drags it down.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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