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Annapolis **
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Franco and Brewster play toy soldiers in
the underachieving Annapolis.

(Courtesy of SFStation.com)

Starring: James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg. Rated PG-13.

Originality is an admirable quality, but it’s not vital to the success of a movie. Take Lethal Weapon, for example – it wasn’t the first movie to take an odd couple and throw them into a patrol car, but it was one of the finest, thanks to a clever script and its fleshed-out characters. Then there are lazy retreads that borrow ideas from better movies and dump them into a lifeless mix of clichés and hackneyed plot twists.

Annapolis is one such retread. It takes a simple recipe – a hefty helping of An Officer and a Gentleman, with a dash of Rocky for seasoning – and produces a meal that can only be described as bland. If its cast of stiff-lipped Naval Academy recruits seems familiar, that’s because you’ve met these characters before, only this time Richard Gere and Louis Gossett Jr. are played by younger, less charismatic actors named James Franco and Tyrese Gibson.

Franco, of Spider-Man fame, is more than competent in the right role, but Annapolis isn’t an ideal showcase for his talents, if only for its many soporific qualities. (It’s hard to judge a performance when the only thing keeping you awake is a blaring soundtrack of military drumbeats.) Franco plays Jake Huard, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks type who wants to please his dad by attending the Naval Academy. When fate grants him the opportunity, he is forced to learn the value of teamwork and self-discipline.

It’s a brutal education. If David Collard’s screenplay is to be believed, Annapolis students learn their most important lessons in the boxing ring, and it is there that Jake must prove himself before gaining the acceptance of his peers. Among them: Ali (Jordana Brewster), a sexy drill instructor whose character strongly recalls Kelly McGillis’ in Top Gun, and an upperclassman named Cole (Gibson), with whom Jake immediately butts heads. Conveniently, Cole is also the most feared boxer at the academy. No points for guessing that the two end up in the ring before all is said and done.

Luckily, Jake isn't the only misfit at Annapolis – there's a fat kid, dubbed “Twins” by his superiors. In a cliché-ridden movie made up of so many things borrowed and nothing new, it would have been kind of refreshing if he’d snapped, pulled a Gomer Pyle and wiped out most of his classmates. It would have been surprising, at least. But there’s no suspense in by-the-numbers entertainment like Annapolis, just handsome pin-up models in shiny white suits, doing a whole lot of nothing. 

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