Annapolis takes a jab and receives a KO
A boxing movie disguised as a movie about a naval academy, that’s a new one to me, folks. But hey, whatever gets people in the door, I guess. Had I known that “Annapolis” was just a cover for a “Cinderella Man”-like movie, comeback included, I most likely would not have been so hot to trot to the theater. Very predictable, but what isn’t these days? And somehow, even a little inspiring. Made me want to jump out of my popcorn-covered seat and do a few laps around the movie theater, and get my butt in shape. But then the lights came on, and the trance was broken.
Jake Huard, played by an especially ripped James Franco, is a kid from the wrong side of the river. He makes the ships the naval academy learns to command. But from a promise to a long-dead mother of donning the sailor suit, Jake has an unfounded desire to attend Annapolis Naval Academy.
Despite jeers from his peers at the shipyard, a disapproving father, and less than stellar grades, Jake gets accepted. Right from the start we see who is, and who isn’t, Jake’s friend. Lucky for him, the stunning Ali, played by Jordana Brewster, is. The movie never quite lets you know if Cole, Tyrese Gibson, is Jake’s friend or not. The final showdown, the Brigades, or the boxing match between anyone and everyone who meets the weight class qualifications, pairs the unlikely Annapolis plebe Jake with the rough, tough, and bull-like Cole. Cole, a superior officer who has served in a war, has been riding Jake all year, and making the rest of his squad suffer for the plebe’s inadequate knowledge of the navy and the school.
But, by the end of the year, Jake gains enough weight eating Snickers bars wrapped in Wonderbread (the tried and proved North Beach Diet) to meet the heavyweight qualification, which happens to be Cole’s boxing class. Fortunately again for Jake, Ali and one of the lieutenants have taken a liking to the small-town boxer and also happen to know exactly how to train him, to give him the one shot of besting Cole. Because how else would a hot-headed plebe be able to beat a veteran marine?
Somehow, by the end of the fight with Cole, even daddy is proud.
There are flaws throughout the movie. Director Justin Lin misses a chance to establish tension and even a turning point for the movie’s main character, when the naval boys go to visit the ship that Jake had worked on the previous summer. All of his old drinking buddies are there, along with dad, and yet Jake’s pristine white suit remains clean and creased. The only thing the scene accomplished was having Ali be impressed with Jake yet again, for some reason.
Another area I wish Lin and company had played up even more was the unlikely friendship formed between Jake and his roommate, who is nicknamed “Twins” on his first day at the academy for carrying the weight of two people. Twins is the only man who stands by Jake throughout the movie. He’s also the only man who doesn’t seem to be made from a cardboard cut out. While one roommate is kicked out for lying, another one leaves so he won’t have to withstand midnight tortures, leaving just Twins. Jake asks Twins why he doesn’t leave the room and he responds, “Because you are my Mississippi. Mississippi is the only state that makes Arkansas not the worst state.” Jake is a worse plebe than Twins, and therefore, Twins’ mistakes go unnoticed while he is in the shadow of his Mississippi. This metaphor bonds a powerful friendship that is unexpected in this cut-and-dry, rise-to-the-top, sort of, anyway, kind of story. VT
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