The first question that comes to mind after watching ANNAPOLIS is this. If the powers behind this pasteboard mockup of a film wanted to remake AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, why didn’t they just go ahead and do that? The second question, why if they wanted to remake ROCKY, didn’t they just go ahead and do that? The third question is why they thought that combining the two would be a good idea.
Ostensibly, the story is about the trials and tribulations of on Jake Huard (James Franco) during his first year at the eponymous naval academy. I’m sure that there are activities there such as academics, but to judge from what we are shown, aside from the requisite grueling physical training, 10 seconds of what seemed to be a chemistry class, and roughly a minute of what may or may not have been a navigation exercise, the whole point of everyone’s existence at this venerable institution is boxing. Specifically, that would be the boxing competition at the end of the spring term.
Fortunately for Jake, he boxed semi-professionally before being accepted to Annapolis. Of course, he was accepted as a wait list, having only middling grades but showing a gung-ho persistence by stalking his local congressman for 34 straight days until the poor legislator wrote a letter of recommendation, perhaps just to get rid of him. That would seem the only thing Jake has going for him, as the script stacks the deck firmly against him from the working-class family and friends who don’t see the point of not staying and joining the shipbuilder’s union, to his platoon commander, Cole (Louis Gosset, Jr. er, Tyrese Gibson). The film thoughtfully sets the mood for their first meeting by having the soundtrack play something that sounds only slightly less ominous than the theme from JAWS.
This is a flick that not only borrows heavily from its betters, it also stringently follows the rules of screenwriting 101. Jake’s roomies are the standard issue multicultural mix. There is the sensitive fat guy, the wisecracking Puerto Rican, and the overachieving Asian guy. So broadly drawn and so heavy handed is the writing we not only does the audience know that someone will crack up, someone will be booted out, they are denied even the paltry pleasure of being surprised by whom and what. And that cute civilian girl (Jordanna Brewster) that Jake meets in his local bar the night before reporting for duty, naturally he’ll meet her on campus and she will, further naturally, be his superior officer.
Any of this could have been overcome, or at least mitigated, if Jake had been written as a rich, complex character. No such luck. He, like everyone else, flits from emotion to emotion, motive to motive, with all the meaning and purpose of classic entropy, in that it starts as random movement and devolves from there. That Franco spends the film looking either stunned or like he’s about to burst into tears does not help.
ANNAPOLIS succeeds only in being a parody of itself. And not a funny one.