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POLICE ACADEMY(S)

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 1, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the 1980s, I had the sorry duty of reviewing the first six ‘Police Academy’ comedies, of which only the first had any redeeming value, and it was, of course, the raunchiest of the franchise and the only one to earn an R rating. No. 7, subtitled ‘Mission to Moscow’ and filmed in Russia, I was able to (mercifully) miss, as it went straight to video (except for brief bookings in a few big-city theaters). So, with the new re-release this week of all seven films in one DVD set, here are excerpts from each of my six reviews, published in the Deseret News between March 23, 1984, and March 13, 1989.

“Police Academy” (March 23, 1984) is raunchy, stupid and runs out of steam about half-way through, but there are a few hilarious bits in that first half, and a bevy of appealing comic actors who try their darndest to make this one a cut above the usual “Animal House”-style junk.

The very thin premise has the female mayor of an unnamed city eliminating the usual stringent requirements for police candidates — anyone, regardless of height, weight, age, sex or color can apply, and, if they get through the 14 weeks of boot camp training, can become a cop

The main story here has Steve Guttenberg being forced into the academy. He can’t quit, so he tries to get himself thrown out. Obviously, all this is merely an excuse to tie together an endless stream of skits, sight gags and one-liners, many of which fall flat, but a fair number of which are quite funny.

     

Most of the laughs come from supporting characters  -- David Graf, as a gung-ho, gun-happy goon, shooting a little old lady’s cat to get it down from a tree; Michael Winslow, as Dr. Monsignor Larvelle Jones, offering incredible and hysterical sound effects from his throat; Marion Ramsey, who is too shy to shout like a real police officer; Donovan Scott as an overweight, wimpy trainee; and Bubba Smith, a former florist who turns over a squad car when a racist remark is aimed at Ramsey.

Appropriately rated R for sex, nudity, vulgarity and the usual raunchy gags (and gag is the word for some of this), “Police Academy” has the same problem so many comedies have today, mistaking gross-out shock material for creative humor.

“Police Academy II: Their First Assignment” (March 31, 1985). Happily, all (of the cast members) are back in “Police Academy II: Their First Assignment.” Unhappily, the script is less creative, and the direction less witty, by people unassociated with the first film.

But it does have its moments, most of them provided by the above-named cast members, along with Colleen Camp, as a female counterpart to Graf’s gun nut (with whom he falls in love, natch), and good-natured Steve Guttenberg, who plays the wise-guy role patterned after Tim Matheson in “Animal House,” the prototype for this and 10 dozen other copycat flicks.

Veteran TV director Jerry Paris (whom you may remember as the dentist neighbor on the old “Dick Van Dyke Show”) doesn’t so much pace the material as simply watch it go by. PG-13 (violence, nudity, profanity, vulgarity).

     

“Police Academy III: Back in Training” (March 28, 1986). Worst yet of the series of “Animal House”-style comedies about cops you hope never come to your rescue. Weak gags strung together in slapdash structure. PG (profanity, vulgarity).

“Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” (March 8, 1987) finally brings the “Police Academy” series to rock bottom. Even ardent fans are going to be annoyed by this one. For some reason, Steve Guttenberg, arguably the series’ star, and Michael Winslow, arguably the only talented comic in the bunch, are virtually absent — but obnoxious Bobcat Goldthwait, who at one point complains that he is criticized for his lack of diction, has more on-camera time than anyone will want to see. You can practically write this one yourself. PG (violence, profanity, vulgarity).

“Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach” (March 24, 1988). So guess what movie came along and became the No. 1 box-office attraction last week. This one could be subtitled, “Who Needs Steve Guttenberg and Bobcat Goldthwait: We Made Big Bucks Without Them”? Just when you thought it was impossible to get any worse than “Police Academy 4,” here comes No. 5 to prove you wrong, recycling jokes from “Police Academies 1-4”. PG (violence, profanity, vulgarity).

“Police Academy 6: City Under Siege” (March 13, 1989). It's hard to believe that "Police Academy" is up to No. 6 already. It feels like No. 37. It's also hard to believe that by the sixth in a series these films are still recycling the same old gags. All the same cast members return (minus Steve Guttenberg and Bobcat Goldthwait, who bailed out after No. 4), but the only time I managed a chuckle was during Winslow's hilarious Jimi Hendrix imitation, which I had seen before on a talk show. If you've seen one "Police Academy" film, you've seen them all. PG (violence, profanity, vulgarity).