Thursday, July 8, 2021

Reserved Seating Presents The Rest of the Furious: ANNAPOLIS

 by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino

The review duo who are the Mississippi to your Arkansas.

Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: Our Rest of the Furious series (which follows Fast & Furious family members through their non-Furious cinematic pursuits) celebrates a rare triple bill today! 2006’s Annapolis stars Jordana Brewster and Tyrese Gibson, and it’s directed by Furious series regular Justin Lin. It’s the story of Jake Huard (James Franco), a working-class underachiever who — despite his academic shortcomings — shows enough tenacity to earn a spot at Annapolis’ prestigious U.S. Naval Academy. Making it through his first year won’t be easy, though: His father (Brian Goodman) believes he will fail.

Adam: Brian Goodman plays the exact same part in Justin Lin’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which also came out in 2006. Continue...

Rob: Jake has been singled-out for harassment by superior officers (like Gibson’s Cole) and fellow first-years (like Roger Fan’s Loo) alike. Only a burgeoning friendship with Marcus (Vicellous Reon Shannon), a blossoming romance with Ali (Brewster), and unflinching support from head honcho Burton (Donnie Wahlberg) will propel him to graduation day and a title fight against Cole in the Brigades, the Academy’s boxing championship.

I had so much fun with Annapolis that I don’t even know where to start. It’s a relentlessly dumb and earnest mall movie that just screams 2006 Touchstone Pictures. It’s like Good Will Hunting meets Varsity Blues or A Few Good Men meets O. Everyone’s posing and preening and doing crazy Maryland accents. The characters are drawn exactly as far as they need to be and no further, with due respect paid to the movie’s military setting without things going all awkward and fascist. Lin knows exactly what movie he’s making — he keeps the stakes easy and the energy high. Brewster gives off major Demi Moore vibes (speaking of A Few Good Men), and Tyrese brings the steady gravitas that made him so compelling in his early career. It’s all just so much fun. I know you enjoyed it as much as I did (it’s a total Riske movie), so please jump in.
Adam: I mean, where do I begin? This movie is totally cornball, and I really enjoyed watching it again. I saw Annapolis on DVD back in the day and remember thinking it was disappointing. I actually had high hopes for it at the time because I was invested in the blossoming dramatic film career of James Franco. Full disclosure: I even wrote an outline for a terminal illness love story that I one day dreamt of getting made where my big hook was the guy was the one with the terminal illness and not the woman. I thought that was going to shake Hollywood to its core.

Rob: I would have seen it five times.

I bring this up because my dream casting at the time (around 2005) was Anne Hathaway and James Franco. When they were paired to be co-hosts for the Oscars, I felt validated and then I saw the show and I was like “My project would have been a disaster.” I bought into the James Franco mystique entirely after Freaks and Geeks and TNT’s James Dean biopic where Franco played the iconic star. I think I had a full-on man crush on Franco which I wasn’t willing to admit at the time, but I will now. So, my reaction to Annapolis now was amusing because I really don’t like James Franco as a person these days and I’m more or less rooting against him as Jake Huard in the film. When he’s in the boxing ring with Tyrese, I want Tyrese (who is in full Jamie Foxx Jarhead mode) to win. When he’s flirting with superior officer Jordana Brewster, I want her to see through Franco’s brooding and find a different love interest.

It’s nearly impossible to be in Franco’s corner (pun intended) in 2021. I’m also realizing how protective I am of Jordana Brewster. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Get away from Mia. No one looks at Mia like that. You break her heart, I’ll break your neck.”
Adam: It’s a weird position to be in with a movie where you’re rooting against the hero, but I found a lot of enjoyment watching Annapolis this way. I couldn’t believe all the bullshit the Navy let Jake Huard get away with in this movie -- he’s late to fall in, he’s talking back and questioning authority, he’s punching superior officers, etc., and each time he’s bailed out because Donnie Wahlberg’s character thinks the kid has what it takes. To do what? Box? Why does this movie get bored with its own premise and decide just to be a boxing movie halfway through?

Rob: That problem is so glaring that it actually circles back around to being charming. In a more probing and serious character study, it would have been impossible to overcome. Here, though, it’s just part and parcel of the mall movie vibe. There’s never anything real driving Jake (aside from the vague sense that he has to “prove himself''), nor is there any real ticking clock on any of the action. He even has to engineer fake drama with his dad by asking for his old shipbuilding job back and then getting ANGRY at his dad when he gives it to him! And then in the end, he just goes from a freshman to a sophomore! It’s all just such goofy, melodramatic fun.

Adam: If this group of cadets went off to battle at the end of this movie, they’d all be killed. Annapolis makes the Naval Academy look like Hogwarts. Perhaps that was the point, and this was a recruitment tool? I don’t know. I really like Annapolis despite knowing it’s as by-the-numbers as movies get. I couldn’t believe it in the first 20 minutes when Jordana Brewster’s character is introduced in a case of escort mistaken identity, only to find out in the next scene (gasp) she’s one of his drill sergeants!

Rob: This is one of those movies that I knew I would be watching through your eyes after about five minutes. It’s just got that alchemical easiness that makes so many movies of the period work. Lin takes his filmmaking seriously, but not himself, which gives the movie that signature mid-2000s energy.

Annapolis is a movie that consists of a lot of bits (e.g. boxing, candy bars, obstacle courses, tattle tales). Did you have a favorite character/situation in the film?

Rob: The whole thing with Franco trying to make weight by eating Snickers wrapped in Wonder Bread was just hysterical for both intentional and unintentional reasons. He’s literally shoving food into his mouth at the weigh-in and smiling at everyone like, “Ain’t I a stinker?” He really is the Harry Potter of this place. He steals attention from everyone else and gets limitless chances to fuck up and try again because of some vague notion that he’ll...make a good officer, I guess? At least Potter had the whole prophecy thing. This guy is just White Male Privilege personified. But, again, nothing in this movie is serious enough to get angry about.

Did you have a favorite character or situation?
Adam: I really like the big early dilemma was that Estrada (Wilmer Calderon) lied to a racist drill sergeant once about taking extra showers and his fellow plebe, Loo, was like “This cannot pass.” The movie treats this situation like it was something of Code Red (from A Few Good Men) importance. I also thought it was funny when Jordana Brewster and James Franco almost kiss and she apologizes; not because she’s his superior but for stopping. Obviously, this subplot is borrowed from Top Gun, but it’s so clear that something’s up with these two that I’m surprised no other character has a problem with it. It’s even funnier because there’s a scene where Brewster gets all over the case of one female plebe because she’s crying and calls her a disgrace to all women in the Navy while Jordana Brewster is a soldier second and boy crazy first.

Rob: There are so many ethical violations sprinkled throughout Annapolis that it’s no wonder the U.S. Navy refused to give the filmmakers access to the actual academy or other active facilities. But again, that level of verisimilitude would have required more oversight, which would have surely resulted in less goofy fun.

Adam: If I were 17 when I saw this movie, I probably would have joined the Navy. It looks like a blast. We’ll be back next week with an entry in our Box Office Bombs series, as we revisit 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. Until next time...

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. I once nursed a hangover by watching Annapolis 4 times in a row. It's almost the perfect mix of silliness and low stakes, low energy nothingness to keep a headache at bay. Would recommend.

  2. Well, I'm sold! It's on Disney+ so added to my watchlist.

    Can't wait for Chronicles Of Riddick next week. The Blank Cheque podcast is going to do commentaries for them, and I've been meaning to watch them with kids for a while now, so I feel the time has arrived.