Making the Grades
"We're looking for a few good boxers," may be the new slogan put forth by the US Navy if this loosely constructed movie were to be anywhere near true.
We already know this is an underdog story when Jake Huard (James Franco) leaves his shipbuilding job to pursue his dreams of attending Annapolis Naval Academy. Our hero's test scores are deplorable, he has a cocky attitude, his father (who is also his boss) wants him to stay and earn his union credentials, and he had to petition a government official for days to let him in the front door. Finally, he is granted a late admission because another candidate decided life at the legendary naval academy was too hard. He's also told it will be tough going because he is already days behind.
Cut to the next scene, and Huard and hundreds of others, are heading into the ranks for their first day (an obvious continuity error, as nobody appears to be starting late). With snarly superiors, like Midshipman Lt. Cole (Tyrese Gibson), telling the new "plebes" how pathetic they are, Huard does what any handsome Hollywood guy would do: He makes nice eyes at female Commander Ali (Jordanna Brewster), a sweet little gal he happened to innocently make a pass at while boozing with his buddies at the local watering hole the night before.
In his dorm, he meets his roommates. "Twins" (Vicellous Shannon)--a nasty nickname due to his slightly obese size--is an African-American Arkansas native with a heart as large as his body, who is struggling to achieve the demanding physical standards. Loo (Roger Fan), of Asian decent, and Whitaker (McCaleb Burnett), another Caucasian, are both hard-liners determined to personally excel. Estrada (Wilmer Calderon), a Hispanic, is also determined but struggles to understand the need for precise discipline.
This multi-ethnic group has the makings to create the graduate version of Remember the Titans, and we sense that idea may have existed in the script five drafts earlier. In one of the few classroom scenes, Huard wrestles with math and refuses to accept help from Twins. It looks like a story thread is about to develop showing how Huard's brawn and Twins brains can work together, yet it never happens. Other similar moments lay bait for better things to come. Unfortunately, the writers instead take a left turn and focus on the Academy's annual boxing match.
Suddenly, this movie that could be an inspirational tale about learning to work together and succeeding in one of the world's toughest military academies hits a creative storm and flounders into a b-rate boxing film. Huard and his superior Cole have been at odds since they met, so the boxing ring gives the scriptwriters a perfect excuse to bring the two foils together. With the camera focusing on punches and jabs, the bottom half of this feature is filled with ring scenes where rapid edits and a high-speed shutter effect attempt to cover poorly choreographed moves.
Although the film contains a few moderate profanities, a couple of sexual remarks, boxing violence and an attempted suicide, these issues aren't likely concerning enough to keep parents and older teens from viewing. However, families may find the biggest disappointment is the potential Annapolis throws away.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Annapolis.
This movie is unlikely to give young viewers an understanding of what life in the United States Naval Academy is really like. To get a clear picture, visit the offical USNA website.