(2006) * 1/2 Pg-13
108 min. Touchstone Pictures. Director: Justin Lin. Cast: James Franco, Jordana Brewster, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Donnie Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson.

Every shot in Annapolis seems to have been focus-group-tested and approved. A paean to commitment and discipline, the story of young Naval recruits also toys with the question of whether or not the school's instructors drive their students too hard. Amazingly, the results are even less complex than one would expect from a next-generation An Officer and a Gentleman that promises and delivers a slow build to a potboiling climax in a boxing ring.

James Franco (Tristan + Isolde) plays Jake Huard, a riveter with a rebellious spirit and a dream of Naval excellence. Hmm...what's wrong with this picture? Petulant and resentful of his blue-collar dad (who actually says at one point, "I know I haven't been the best father...") and sentimental for the dream he shared with his late mom, Jake harangues the elite Naval academy until they offer him late acceptance. But Jake's escape brings him face-to-face with his own fear of inadequacy and the authority against which he chafes (represented by Tyrese Gibson's contemptuous instructor Cole). Jake stubbornly refuses many offers of help, perhaps especially those of hottie instructor Ali (Jordana Brewster).

Will Jake learn to be a team player? If you have to ask the question, you're the target audience. Screenwriter Dave Collard (Out of Time) underwrites Huard to be a witless combination of GI Joe and Randle McMurphy, in the cuckoo's nest of Annapolis. Eventually, Collard and director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow) make it abundantly clear that our sympathies should be equal-opportunity. Collard labors to make Cole hateful in his extremity of expectations, but only to fuel the inevitable pugilistic showdown betwen Huard and Cole at the annual "Brigades" tournament. Immediately thereafter, cue the grudging-respect scene. Annapolis is a corny, eighties throwback, with thematic mushiness, regressive sexual politics, and cheesy montages to match.

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