" Do you think this is a little bit cathartic for you?”
“Uh, very cathartic”
“Do you know what cathartic means?”
“No. "

— Mmark Borchamp & Mike Schank, American Movie

MRQE Top Critic

The Rhythm Section

Blake Lively, one of the world's most beautiful women, goes all-in as a down-and-out girl. —Matt Anderson (review...)

The Rhythm Section

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If you want to learn anything about life at the United States Naval Academy, it won’t be from watching Annapolis, which is a half-assed remake of An Officer and a Gentleman with a little bit of Rocky added. If you have seen either movie, you can pretty much guess what happens.

The title is unimportant because the action could have taken place at any military academy, anywhere in the country. The story takes many liberties, such as having Annapolis resident and C-student Jake Huard (James Franco) being admitted at the last moment over the plethora of valedictorians on the academy’s waiting list. The story also adds a shipyard to the Annapolis harbor across from the school so Jake could have something to stare at every day at work.

The Annapolis tradition the movie focuses on is an annual event called The Brigades, a boxing tournament where the underclassmen plebes can try to get back at their superior midshipmen by fighting them in the ring. Jake just happens to be a boxer himself, and you know he’ll enter so he can get the chance to take on his rock-hard drill instructor Lt. Cole (Louis Gossett Jr... er... Tyrese Gibson).

What, No Army-Navy Game?

Performances by Franco and Brewster save the show from total oblivion
Performances by Franco and Brewster save the show from total oblivion

Like any other story set in these confines, Jake befriends fellow plebe Nash (Vicellous Shannon) who can’t finish the obstacle course and hides candy bars in shaving cream containers. (Isn’t there always someone weaker around to make the hero more heroic?) The love interest is a superior that Jake first mistakes for a prostitute, but she later warms up to him in time to help him with surviving the academy. And box. And be a better man.

Sure, there is hazing. Guys are getting kicked out for petty issues such as lying about showering and there are those who resent Jake for his shortcomings. But someone who is an antagonist one scene is a friend the next, and the movie’s motive to not feature a bona fide “bad guy” hurts the dramatic tension (something this movie can’t afford to lose).

The performances by Franco and Brewster save the show from total oblivion, even though the rest of the movie feels like an after-school special. What is most upsetting is that some of the characters’ fates are not revealed!

Picture and Sound

The disc has a nice-looking picture that keeps you watching even when the story sputters. Its well-crafted sound is at its best during the boxing scenes, which also happen to be some of the best sports scenes shot in quite a while. The punches sound and look convincing.

Extra Features

In the bonus features, you will find a comprehensive documentary on the history of the Naval Acad... OK, you won’t get that. When movies get as mediocre at his, you start thinking of ways to make it better. An eleven-minute collection of sound bites called “Plebe Year: The Story Of Annapolis” and a ten-minute short on the elements of teaching actors to box called “The Brigades” is included, along with seven deleted scenes with optional commentary.

The deleted scenes give a few hints to the tradition of the academy, but they would not have improved the story. And the exploding battleship that showed up in the ads for the theatrical release and the DVD is nowhere to be seen on any part of the disc, which must explain why the theatrical trailer is missing....

An audio commentary with Director Justin Lin, Screenwriter Dave Collard, and Editor Fred Raskin is also provided, but not much is said (they debate on “f-bombs”) and entire scenes pass by without their input.

Annapolis is an example of a movie that is forgotten shortly after it is viewed, which explains why it did so poorly at the box office. If it ever achieves cult status, it won’t be thanks to this DVD.