"Proud" tells the important story of the USS Mason, a Navy destroyer-escort ship manned by a largely black crew during World War II when the U.S. military, much like the country, was segregated. The Mason's crew was the only black crew allowed into combat, the other sailors being limited to jobs as stewards and cooks.

The film's writer-director, Mary Pat Kelly, helped highlight the story of the Mason with her book "Proudly We Served." In 1995, President Bill Clinton honored the members of the crew with a commendation -- 50 years after it was first recommended.

Unfortunately, the high purpose of "Proud" is not matched by the film's execution. See "Proud" if you are a World War II buff, want to explore an important chapter in the African American narrative or maybe want to expose your teenagers to this critical story, but please don't expect a well-written feature film.

"Proud " is something of an odd hybrid: It is part documentary -- with actual footage from the Mason -- and narrated dramatization. The film does benefit from the wonderful presence of the late Ossie Davis, who narrates and plays crewman Lorenzo DuFau.

DuFau tells the story of the Mason late one night to his grandson and his other college-educated friends. The story captures the imagination of these young men, who play DuFau and his two shipmates in the flashbacks. But even Davis's formidable acting magic can only levitate the film just so high beyond its writing. The history of the Mason is the real star of this film.

-- Marcia Davis