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Inaccurate portrayal sinks ‘Annapolis’

Sarah Vabulas | Wednesday, February 1, 2006

When a person thinks of Annapolis, Md., he or she thinks of a beautiful harbor city that boasts the home of the United States Naval Academy, one of the toughest and most rigorous institutes of higher learning in this country. On any Friday or Saturday night, downtown Annapolis is filled with midshipmen enjoying liberty – free time away from “the yard.”

But in the newly released film “Annapolis,” the Hollywood version of the city is not much like reality. The streets are tough and full of blue-collar workers who envy the midshipmen. The shipbuilding industry is lively – including the opportunity to build a new Navy destroyer right outside the Academy walls.

And it’s no wonder the city looks nothing like the real Annapolis – Buena Vista Pictures filmed in Philadelphia after failing to win script approval from the Navy, which denied the privilege of filming at the Academy. The State House – the oldest in the United States – never makes an appearance, nor does the chapel dome, which attracts more than one million visitors per year. Not to mention the chief industries in the real Annapolis are politics and tourism, not shipbuilding. And though Founder’s Hall at Girard College, which substitutes for the Academy in the film, offers majesty with its Greek columns, it bears little resemblance to the grand structures occupied by generations of midshipmen.

There are also many discrepancies of reality versus fiction in the daily life of a midshipman. The film is not an accurate portrayal of life at the Naval Academy. The trailer claims 50,000 people apply to the Academy each year – a fact that is grossly over exaggerated.

Despite grossing $7.68 million dollars on its opening weekend, the movie falls well short of expectations. Starring Midshipman 4th Class Jake Huard (James Franco), as he endures his “plebe” year at the Academy, Huard dreamt of attending the Naval Academy but was waitlisted, only to be accepted the day before Induction Day – when the plebes take the oath of office as midshipmen.

Huard quickly learns the life of a plebe is one of discipline and hard work. The movie includes scenes of hazing and racism – something which is not tolerated at the real Naval Academy. His commanding officer, Midshipman Lieutenant Cole (Tyrese Gibson), sets out on a quest to ride Huard and push him to his limit – so much so that Huard contemplates quitting on numerous occasions.

Huard finds his place through boxing classes and his roommate, nicknamed “Twins” – a midshipman who struggles with weight problems. Huard learns of the Brigade Boxing Championships – one of the biggest events at the Academy each year. He finds Cole’s tests frustrating, but figures that if he does well enough in the Brigades, he can fight Cole in the championship – the climax of the movie.

As a subplot, Huard falls for an upperclassman, Ali (Jordana Brewster), who also happens to be one of his superior officers – something forbidden at the real and Hollywood Academy. Brewster’s character never fully develops throughout the movie and leaves the audience wondering how and why she knows enough about boxing to help Huard.

The film is full of clichés and lacks depth in the overall plot. There are moments when the viewer is drawn into the movie, but it can be largely attributed to the soundtrack, which features strong instrumentals by Brian Tyler.

Other than offering a new, and not by any means better, version of the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman” (starring Richard Gere), the film is missing substance. The viewers keep waiting for the characters to develop and the plot to tie together, but this never happens.