In Annapolis, James Franco plays Jake Huard, a shipyard worker who joins the U.S. Naval Academy. Jake is a hardheaded underdog from the wrong side of the river who wants more out of life, but is held back because he thinks no one believes in him. Even though no one would watch a recruit who always follows the rules, Franco is quite charming, and it is fun to watch the rebel begrudgingly accept his role as a leader and friend.

There is nothing high-minded about Annapolis. When the movie shifts focus to the Brigades, an annual boxing tournament, the audience is willing to accept the sport as a convenient analogy for life and just enjoy the fights instead. Likewise, one can tolerate the inevitable love interest (Jordana Brewster) and Jake's conflicts with his superiors, played by Tyrese Gibson and Donnie Wahlberg, because it is all entertaining enough to take at face value. It is also not a surprise that Franco and the rest of his naval buddies look good in uniform because the casting department is very smart. What is a nice surprise, however, is that the moments of comic relief, usually thrown in as a cheesy afterthought in these movies to break up the sober, "can he do it?" tone, are quite funny. Credit Vicellous Reon Shannon, who plays Jake's best friend at the academy, for that. Annapolis knows it is meant to be a fun popcorn movie, and it soundly executes its mission.