a critiQal film review Annapolis (2006)

Plot: Since he was little, Jake Huard (Franco) has dreamed of graduating from Annapolis, the world's most elite military academy. But, he soon discovers that although it was hard to do, getting accepted was the easy part - surviving once you're in is a lot harder.

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  • ...while it turns out to be more of a Rocky knock-off than expected, it's still a decent film, thanks to the supporting cast.

With an unlimited membership to Blockbuster®, you would think we would be watching DVDs as fast as we could. Surprisingly, the last few months we’ve been slacking off a bit – maybe because we’ve been going to see more movies in the theaters as part of our Summer At The Movies 2006 kick. Whatever the reason, we’re now far behind, and this week are finally starting to get back into the swing of things. Our latest arrivals: Firewall (2006) and Annapolis. We had seen previews a few months ago for Annapolis, and figured it might be worth watching on DVD.

With a cast that included one of the Four Brothers (2005) and a Spider-Man (2002) pal, we thought it would be interesting to see what these 2 sidekicks could do if given more camera time. With that thought prominent in our minds, we settled in to see if they could step up into the spotlight – or if there was a reason they were sidekicks.

James Franco – well-known for his role as Harry, the son of Spider-Man (2002) foe The Green Goblin – takes up the lead acting reins in Annapolis – and manages to eke out a decent performance. While his craggy appearance sadly reminds viewers of ugly new Bond Daniel Craig, his acting (thankfully) is much better than his looks. He manages to give viewers a decent performance, but doesn’t really strive for excellence. Apparently, he’s content with decent – and most viewers probably will be too, at least for this film. If he gets another chance at main character status, however, he may want to step it up as he won’t always have such a well-rounded supporting cast backing him up.

Former model Tyrese has started to actually put away his model persona, and seems to be trying to make a name for himself as an actor. It’s been done before (Mark Wahlberg being a prime example), and Tyrese is definitely going through the same transition. With Annapolis as only his 5th film total – and only his 3rd film in the leading man role – he’s obviously still finding his way as an actor. His character lacks the style and flash that seasoned actors are able to generate, making the characters they play their own. Since he’s still new to the acting biz, it’s not surprising that his character, while a worthy antagonist in the film, is soon forgotten once the film ends.

The other actors in Annapolis and do a good job of supporting their newbie leading men. Jordana Brewster (the required love interest) and Vicellous Shannon (the required buddy) are the biggest standouts, playing off the leading men so well it enhances the viewer’s opinion of the leading men’s performances. Ex-NKOTB‘er Donnie Wahlberg, although looking quite a bit older than even his recent role in Saw II (2005), manages to bring in another worthwhile performance also.

When viewers first hear about Annapolis – especially after watching the preview – most will think it’s going to be a movie about the intensive training the plebes go through in this elite military school. And in the beginning, that’s exactly where the movie seems to be heading.

Then, about a third of the way through the film, Annapolis suddenly turns into another Rocky (1976) wanna-be, as the hero suddenly begins boxing in the Brigades – the military academy’s form of Golden Gloves – and the scene is set for the climactic mano-a-mano battle between the two leading men. While they do a good job with the boxing aspect, it’s odd how the film switches from the rigorous training into just another boxing flick. Think Rocky (1976) meets G.I. Jane and you’ve got Annapolis in a nut shell.

Despite the fact that Annapolis is more inspired by Rocky (1976) than by G. I. Jane, it’s still a decent film.

Thanks to the good supporting cast, even though this may be early on in Franco’s and Gibson’s leading man careers, Annapolis turns out to be a movie worth renting, although it’s not as good a film as it could have been.

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