Annapolis, it seems, is James Franco’s Elizabethtown. The former Freaks and Geeks star seems to be paralleling Orlando Bloom’s disappointing career path from swell supporting character in a geeky fantasy (Spider-Man/Lord of the Rings) to ineffective period-piece longhair (Tristan & Isolde/Kingdom of Heaven) to this, a charmless lead in a trite, stultifying “real-world” drama. How trite and stultifying? After barely getting accepted into the Naval Academy, one man from a working-class family struggles against the odds to…zzzzz. Written by Dave Collard (Out of Time) and directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow), Annapolis wastes no time letting you know what it’s all about, showing gloomy Jake (Franco) in his room as he glances at a picture of a young kid in a sailor suit who poses with a mom now surely dead. Jake goes off to work at his father’s shipbuilding business, then stops off at the academy, where Lt. Cmdr. Burton (Donnie Wahlberg) tells him that even though his grades suck, some second-chance spots have just opened up. (“A couple of kids decided they’d rather have fun in college!” Burton sneers.) Although the academy can be seen from their home, Jake’s dad doesn’t want him to go. His friends don’t want him to go, either, but nothing will stop Jake from making Mom proud! In the process, a bunch of people at the academy decide they don’t like him too much because he’s stoopid, and he develops a rivalry with a fellow midshipman (Tyrese Gibson) that has to be punched out in the boxing ring. Of course, there’s an improbable love interest: Ali (Jordana Brewster), a slip of a woman Jake meets in a bar before he enrolls and then meets again when he finds out she’s his superior—and boxing coach. What it all amounts to is a bunch of somber nodding when the underdogs—not only Jake but one-dimensional tubby black kid Twins (Vicellous Shannon)—manage to do something right. Oh, and Ali’s high-pitched, drill-in-the-head cries of “Go for it, Jake!” during the big bout, filmed in nauseating handheld. During a first-day speech, the new plebes learn that “failure is a far greater teacher than success.” No better teacher than Annapolis, then, to show Franco what happens to personality-free pretty boys in Hollywood. —Tricia Olszewski

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