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Annapolis (1/10)

by Tony Medley

I didn’t go to Annapolis and didn’t serve in the Navy. But I did serve in the armed forces and, from my experience, this is about as accurate a picture of life in the armed forces as an Annapolis plebe as you would get from "Mary Poppins." According to Director Justin Lin and Screenwriter Dave Collard, about all a plebe has to do during his first year is to flirt with upperclasswomen and train to fight in the annual Brigade Boxing Championship.

So let’s talk about the boxing, because that’s what this really is, a boxing movie. It is so factually and procedurally inaccurate that it could just as easily been entitled “UCLA,” for all the relevance it has to life at the Naval Academy. The boxing scenes put the coup de grace on what is a horrible movie in the first place. They were choreographed by Nick Powell, whose boxing scenes were the only black marks marring “Cinderella Man.” Every time Powell has one of his “fighters” touch his opponent the sound is like an atomic bomb has exploded. To call the fighting scenes unrealistic is far too tame. They are ludicrous. All the fights sound like firefights sound in Iraq with bombs exploding all over the place. But those aren’t bombs, they are left jabs. The unrealistic sounds make the fighting scenes laughable.

Just to show how little Lin cared about accuracy, when he shows the Brigade Championships, the boxers are not wearing head guards. In fact, in all Annapolis boxing matches the boxers are required to wear head guards, as they are in all amateur boxing matches. This is just an example of the vacuity and laziness with which this deplorable movie was made. If you don’t have the interest in getting such a simple little detail correct, why make the movie?

The entire movie is loony. Lin apparently tried to combine “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) with “From Here to Eternity” (1953) and wound up with “Alice in Wonderland” (1951). Lin’s Navy certainly isn’t anything like my Air Force. There is no discipline. At his Annapolis, there’s nothing wrong with romantic fraternization between plebes and upperclassmen. Instead of trying to build character and discipline and respect, Lin’s upperclassmen are intent on being cruel and vituperative.

Jake Hubbard (James Franco) is an uncooperative, misfit loner who says he wants to make it at the Academy, but actions speak louder than words and Jake is just a 14-carat selfish loser, not the heroic protagonist Lin tries to paint. His superior officer, Cole (Tyrese Gibson), seems to have but one goal in life, and that’s to keep Jake from making it. At Lin’s Annapolis, plebes are free to move in and out of their dorm rooms if they don’t like their roommates.

Jake is introduced to us as an experienced amateur boxer, but he accepts his girl friend, upperclassman Ali (Jordana Brewster), as his manager and she tells him how to throw a right hook and is in his corner telling him how to fight his fights. Yeah, sure.

The Navy reviewed the script. According to Judy Campbell of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Public Affairs office, with whom I spoke the day after I viewed the film,

 “This movie did not receive official support because the advance scripts we reviewed did not realistically portray the Naval Academy or how we develop and train future Navy and Marine Corps officers.  Early in the project, the Naval Academy offered suggestions for ways the script could realistically portray Academy life.   We provided research, facilitated visits to the Academy, afforded contact with Midshipmen, and provided extensive script notes to the producers.  Our objective was to help the filmmakers develop a script that could receive official support.  Ultimately, the filmmakers made the decision to shoot the film elsewhere and forego further contact with the Naval Academy.”

By turning down this generous offer of support, Lin and his cohorts showed that they really didn’t want to make a film that realistically portrays life at Annapolis. They had their own ulterior motive, which was apparently to make a dull, factually inaccurate, pointless, unentertaining movie. In this they were enormously successful.

The story is ridiculous; the characters are ludicrous; the script is trite; the location (Philadelphia’s Girard College, not the real Annapolis) is uninspiring.

January 24, 2006