Monday, 26 December 2011

FILM REVIEW

Annapolis, no please

I had mixed feelings when director Sam Raimi got rid of James Franco in Spider-Man 3. On one hand, I thought his insufferable character, Harry Osborn, had outlived his usefulness even though he eventually helps his friends Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) overcome the combined might of super-freaks Venom (Topher Grace) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). On the other hand, I felt Peter needed his best friend around considering he didn't have any other friends. Maybe, just maybe, his death at the hands of the alien symbiote Venom was premature.

Jordana Brewster and James Franco in a still from the film.
 
So it was with mixed feelings that I watched James Franco play naval rookie Jake Huard in Annapolis (2006) directed by Justin Lin. My first thought was: didn't they find anyone else? Apparently not.

Annapolis is the story of a young man from a not-too well-to-do family of shipbuilders who dreams of joining, and graduating, from Annapolis, the elite US naval academy, and he does so against odds that run only in one direction–his way. First of all, he arm-twists a Congressman into selecting him; second of all, his grades are below average; and third of all, he is not exactly an asset to his class of cadets.

But Huard is determined to see it through Annapolis for two reasons: one, a promise he made to his dying mother, and two, make his father, Bill Huard (Brian Goodman) believe in him. But life at the academy isn’t a cakewalk, as Huard’s inability to measure up to its high standards earns him the scorn of his superiors, particularly Cole (Tyrese Gibson), and the ridicule of his batch mates whom he lets down frequently.

A frustrated Huard confronts his academic ineptitude by walking out of Annapolis. Not for long, though. His father, whom he meets at the shipyard where he, himself, used to work as a welder, tells him, rather condescendingly, that he is not capable of pursuing his dream. Huard, in an I-gotta-make-my-daddy-proud-of-me moment, does an about turn and returns to the academy, only this time for real. He studies hard and for once remembers naval history; trains hard and helps his fat roommate train harder; endures punishment and punishment posting; and eventually enrolls his name in a boxing tournament, the prestige of Annapolis, which is open to all ranks.

The boxing contest, in fact, forms the backdrop of this movie, as Huard, an amateur boxer, trains under Ali (Jordana Brewster), his superior and love-interest, and goes on to defeat one opponent after another including a senior officer. Predictably, Huard meets reigning champion Cole in the final, a battle that proves to be the one redeeming feature in an otherwise forgettable tenure at the academy. Huard proves his true mettle against Cole and though he loses the crown, he wins hearts. As Huard makes his way back from the ring, he sees his father in the stands, beaming with pride.

Annapolis is probably the story of many real-life Jake Huards who, in spite of their poor social backgrounds and academic deficiencies, make it through some of the toughest US defence academies to, as Huard says with grim determination, “Serve my country, sir.”

In terms of acting skills, James Franco, as the cocky and bungling Jake Huard, is rather mediocre with his trademark smile being the only notable feature throughout the film. Annapolis is a film you should watch if you’ve nothing worthwhile to see. What was that I said about mixed 
feelings?


For Tuesday's Overlooked/Forgotten films, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

8 comments:

  1. I think Franco can be good in small doses and playing comedy. But he can be tiresome too.

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  2. DIdn't think this one looked all that great anyway.

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  3. Patti, I see your point. EAT, PRAY, LOVE comes to my mind.

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  4. Charles, it wasn't but I sat through it. I rarely walk out on a film no matter how it looks.

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  5. Unlike you, I have been known to turn off films within the first ten minutes - sometimes even less.

    This one sounds like less. Ha!

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  6. Yvette, that makes sense too. Why waste your time?

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  7. I'm not familiar with James Franco's movies, or with how he is as an actor. Maybe he'll improve as he gets older, and not just rely on what you describe as the "trademark smile." Good review!

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  8. Thanks, HKatz. Franco is okay but this movie didn't do much for me. He probably has a lot of potential.

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