By Shawn McKenzie 01/27/2006
You won’t believe this…but I had not seen 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman before I wrote this review of Annapolis. Several women have told me that it’s one of the most romantic movies around, and I’ve seen the last scene in the movie parodied many times, but because of my loathing for actor Richard Gere, I avoided it. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that is the subject of this review that I finally checked out Officer, but only because my fellow film critic colleague Reggie McDaniel highly recommended it before I write my review. I’m so glad that I did, because I now know what all of the hype was about. If you check Annapolis out yourself, you may see a lot of Officer in it, along with a little of 1976’s Rocky and 1986’s Top Gun.
Jake Huard (Richard Gere…I mean Sylvester Stallone…I mean Tom Cruise…I mean James Franco) is a young man who lives in Annapolis, MD, and he works for a local shipyard with his father Bill (Robert Loggia…I mean Brian Goodman.) Mayo’s…I mean Jake’s mother died, and he has always dreamed of going the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis to fulfill his late mother’s last wish. There are two things that are stopping him: Bill doesn’t think that he should go, and his grades suck. Jake hangs out with his buddies, including A.J. (Jim Parrack), at the local bar called TJ’s…I mean Sir Frankie’s…and they hope that Jake will still get in. Rocky…I mean Jake…also participates in local amateur boxing bouts, where he frequently wins. It’s at one of those bouts that Jake is approached by Navy recruiter Lt. Cmdr. Burton (Donnie Wahlberg) who informs him that his 34 requests to get a recommendation from his congressman have given him a shot. He is considered a “wait-lister,” because normally applicants would receive their notice months ahead (he is to report the base on the next day.) That night, he celebrates with his friends at Sir Frankie’s when he meets Ali Halloway (Debra Winger…I mean Talia Shire…I mean Kelly McGillis…I mean Jordana Brewster.) He is attracted to her immediately…but little does he know that she is one of his superiors at the academy. He meets his fellow plebes the next day; overweight Marcus “Twins” Nance (David Keith…I mean Vicellous Shannon); tattletale D.S. Loo (Val Kilmer…I mean Roger Fan); and ladies man L.J. Estrada (Wilmer Calderon.) Jake also meets the “bad guys”: upperclassman Whitaker (McCaleb Burnett), who specifically picks on Nance for being fat; and Midshipman Lt. Matt Cole (Louis Gossett, Jr….I mean Tyrese Gibson), who previously served in the Marines and is a boxer. Estrada wants to go out with the ladies, but he is ordered by Whitaker to take a shower every three hours (apparently he smells bad, according to Whitaker.) Nance is intelligent, but he has to pass the physical training course or face “separation”…this movie’s version of Officer’s D.O.R. (it doesn’t help Nance that he still sneaks in junk food.) Jake wants to enter the prestigious Brigades boxing tournament run by Coach McNally (Chi McBride), so that he can beat Cole, but the lack of studying that kept him out previously is hampering him today. Nance helps Jake study, and he gives him tips on how to increase his weight (Jake needs to gain weight in order to be in Cole’s weight class.) With all of the help from Nance, Burton, and Ali, Jake may make it through his first year and become a boxer (or a pilot…or whatever.)
Why did director Justin Lin, who made the entertaining and original 2002 movie Better Luck Tomorrow, make this movie his follow-up flick? For that matter, why did screenplay writer David Collard, who made the fun and thrilling 2003 Denzel Washington flick Out of Time, give us this script that heavily borrowed from many other movies? Honestly…I don’t know. I’m almost wondering if it had been a mistake to check out Officer now…because I originally thought that Annapolis was at least a decent movie, if not one of the best movies of 2006.
The cast may have been the reason why my opinion of it was saved. Franco, who has been one of my favorites ever since he played a freak on NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks” and his spot-on, Golden Globe-winning performance in the 2001 TNT TV movie “James Dean,” has had a hard time transitioning onto the big screen. Of course, I liked him as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies, but his role was small (if you’ve seen the end of Spider-Man 2 though, his role will be expanded much wider in the third installment.) He’s made a bunch of other smaller movies in the meantime, but I’ve only seen 2002’s Deuces Wild and City by the Sea, and this year’s Tristan & Isolde. While Deuces and City were okay at best, Tristan was awful. I think that my higher than average rating was because Franco did a much better job here than he did with his wooden performance in Tristan. Also, I liked some other performances in this movie. Gibson was good in the Gossett, Jr. role. I’ve always thought that he was more entertaining in 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious than Vin Diesel was in the original. The real find has to be Shannon though. After appearing in several small movie roles and TV guest spots (most notably as Keith Palmer on FOX’s “24”), the actor has a chance to shine here. While his character is completely unbelievable, he makes the best use of it by injecting some humor into the role. His analogy about he being Arkansas and Jake being Mississippi…meaning that Jake’s state is the worst in the nation compared to Nance’s runner-up state…made everyone in the theater laugh, including myself.
Those unbelievable inconsistencies are what might turn off some people to this movie though. Brewster may be hot, but she doesn’t command any authority as a commanding officer. The romance between Jake and Ali would never happen at the real Annapolis…at least not in full view of others (there is no fraternization allowed amongst officers at the school.) Also…Jake would never have been allowed in because of his grades, Nance would never have been allowed in because of his weight, and this other kid who was in the opening lineup would never been allowed in because of his thick glasses. I know this because Reggie, who had been in the military for decades, told me this. If you don’t care about accuracy though, then this movie might not bother you.
I had just one other thing that bothered me. Zachery Ty Bryan, who played Johnson in the movie, is only seen in the opening, and he doesn’t say a word. Why cast the oldest brother on ABC’s “Home Improvement” if you aren’t going to give him any lines? Couldn’t an extra play that part?
Annapolis may have ripped off Officer liberally, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be. Tristan may have lowered the bar for me in terms of my expectations from Franco, but it’s a good date movie…the same way Officer was back in 1982.
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