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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Annapolis

So today I went rushing into the Essex Outlet Cinemas breathless with excitement looking for Dale and Karen Chapman. Wouldn't you know it, neither of them were around. Imagine them taking a day off and leaving such an important local institution in the hands of the young'uns?! No offense, my intrepid teens, I'm sure you can handle anything ~ even the birthday party that was scheduled to descend at any minute with 20 small (dare I guess unruly) children ~ but I wanted to talk to the Chapmans about the possibility of turning this blog into a weekly column in the Colchester Sun and the Essex Reporter, our two local papers. Imagine 20,000 people having my opinions thrown on their porches or stuffed in their mailboxes every week! It's almost as mind-numbing as Annapolis.

Okay, so my expectations for Annapolis were not high to begin with. I went in thinking I had already seen this movie a hundred times before only then it was called Top Gun, An Officer and a Gentleman, A Few Good Men, G.I. Jane... Well, alright, maybe since it stars James Franco I didn't think it was going to be exactly like G.I. Jane, but you get the idea. This was destined to be a predictable military tale, following the character growth of the lead, in this case Jake Huard (Franco), as he moves from lowlife drifter without a foreseeable future other than working in the shipyards like his father to his realization that he
can be a man's man, ladies man, man about town once he dons the uniform of the U.S. Navy and kicks the ass of the biggest, meanest, most intimidating boxer the Navy has ever produced, Midshipman Cole, growlingly played by Tyrese Gibson. Yes, somewhere along the way, Annapolis takes a strange turn and veers from the blueprint of "normal" coming-of-age films and turns into a remake of Rocky.

For some odd reason the advertising for Annapolis neglects to hint that this story is going to be about boxing and that the Naval Academy is barely a character in the story. In fact, the movie was filmed in Philadelphia so those who have visited the institution or are curious to see the actual Annapolis will be disappointed to find that this is no travelogue or peek into the workings of the organization. The academic requirements of plebes are glossed over in only a few mentions and the film concentrates entirely on scenes of physical training, especially for the Brigades, the boxing tournament that seems to be the centerpiece of all action within the Academy. I have no idea whether there are other extracurricular activities for the students, things like Drama Club, Cheerleading, or Webelos for the boys and girls to choose from but none of that is featured. It just seems that when Jake isn't doing his regular basic training he is boxing or doing physical "penance" for his misdeeds. You see, since he is not the brightest bulb in the marquee his lack of general naval knowledge tends to make him unpopular among his unit members as his superiors punish all the team when one does not have the right answer during a pop quiz. Thanks to Jake, he and the men spend an inordinate amount of time being denied their dinners, going for long runs, doing extra push-ups, and generally being miserable. Tempers flare, and the one-dimensional cardboard cadets threaten to morph into something interesting. Threaten to, mind you, but it doesn't really come to pass.

Now I have always said that I could say something nice about any movie, and I don't want you to think that Annapolis is without its' charms. What it lacks in character development and plot, it more than makes up for in choreography and beauty. The fight scenes are exciting and dramatic with great music adding to the tension and the glorious beauty of the actors, both Franco and Gibson, in their shirtless boxing "dance", show amazing muscle development that makes you believe they really are well-trained athletes.

By the time Annapolis ends it is a relief to know that Jake is on the right track ~ to where we have no idea, but it is clear he is going to remain in the Academy and finish his studies. After that he hasn't said. There are other questions, however, that are never answered, and would require a sequel to address them. I will leave it to you to decide if you think it would be worth it to know. Me? I just think he looks adorable in his dress whites and that is enough to sustain me for two hours.What can I say? I'm easy to please.


As I was leaving the Essex Outlet Cinemas one of the young'uns at the concession stand asked me what I thought of the movie. It always makes me wish they would learn to read and just check here so I didn't have to give an impromptu evaluation, but I did give her this bit of personal history to contemplate while she cleaned up the theater before the next show. I told her I always loved movies about the military because they reminded me of my youth. I may never have been in the Armed Services, mind you, but a great deal of them were in me. Now if only James Franco had been one of the lucky ones.

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