Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
A well-meaning docudrama about the only U.S. Navy warship with an African-American crew to see combat in World War II, Proud certainly contains the raw material for a rousing 30-minute documentary. But anyone who endures the crude performances, stilted dialogue, and inert drama will probably leave the theater marveling not at the brave men of the USS Mason, but at the fact that the film that tells their story was produced by Tommy Hilfiger’s 16-year-old daughter. (This may be the first Hollywood movie whose press-kit producer bio includes the phrase “Now that she has graduated from high school…’’) Writer-director Mary Pat Kelly has already made a documentary about the subject, 1995’s Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason. A 35-year film and TV veteran, Kelly is a little more experienced than Ally Hilfiger, but apparently not in the crucial areas of directing actors or writing credible lines. As the hero of the piece, long-retired seaman Lorenzo DuFau, the late Ossie Davis retains some dignity. But the three young actors who play DuFau’s grandson and his pals—and in the flashbacks, DuFau and two crewmates—perform as if they were in a paper-towel commercial, all gee-whiz even when confronting the demon of American racism. Aidan Quinn tries to keep a straight face while calling the Mason “that plucky little ship,’’ and Stephen Rea plays the generic Irishman the sailors meet in Derry so broadly that he might as well be wearing a suit covered in shamrocks. The documentary-footage inserts of naval action, at least, are considerably more evocative than the fictionalized scenes onboard the vessel, which convey all the tumult of a Tidal Basin paddleboat ride. Such torpor is almost enough to make the beleaguered viewer root for the film’s U-boat captain, whose appearance proves that Kelly can direct badly in multiple languages. If the Germans can’t torpedo the Mason, perhaps they could at least sink the tub on which Bill Clinton and Hilfiger père deliver the film’s final benediction.