When our hero Mahoney is given a choice between jail and entering the Police Academy he is dead set on flunking out as quickly as possible. When that is made impossible he is dead set on having as much fun and raising as much hell as possible. Can he have a super fun time before it’s too late? Find out in… Police Academy.
How?! Alright so that really isn’t the plot of this film. Really what happens is that The City has a new mayor who wants to bring down crime and part of that plan is to open up the police academy to all comers (and not just white straight macho males). The police don’t like this. They don’t want women or minorities being police officers and lament the days of yore where they couldn’t be (it’s all obviously very offensive). The police decide to force these misfits out of the academy by making their lives a living hell and forcing them to quit. Enter Mahoney. He is a slacker extraordinaire who specializes in razzing authority. When he has another run in with the law he is given the choice between jail and the academy. He obviously says yes to that dress and enters the police academy with the aim of getting kicked out (fat chance). The rest of the film is the zany antics of these kooky recruits as they run amok on campus and the police officer try to get them to quit. Too bad because these recruits have got guts and won’t give up because they legit want to be officers. Even Mahoney at a certain point realizes that he kinda like his pals and the potential love interest he has met there. Maybe he actually does want to be a police officer after all. Just at that moment though he ends up getting kicked out at the same time that a major riot breaks out downtown and the recruits are sent in as part of the peace keeping crew. Mistakenly sent to the heart of the riot Mahoney and a similarly dishonored recruit Hightower end up playing the heroes and are able to stop the ringleader of the riot. They end up graduating top of the class and gearing up for their First Assignment. THE END.
Why?! There is actually a very clear motivation in this film, which surprised me. Most of the characters truly want to be police officers and have finally been given this chance by the new mayor’s policy. The police officers mostly want to see these recruits quit because they don’t look or sound like the police officers of yesteryear (catch up with the times, bro). These two motivations are the driving force of a lot of the film. But really our main character is Mahoney and he doesn’t care about any of that. He floats around life with a smile on his face just looking to not be too serious and perhaps smooch with a lady here and there. When something gets in the way of his slacker lifestyle he tries to get out of it and quick by pranking people. His only clear motivating factor is to avoid jail and it’s only at the end of the film that he finally realizes that in fact he just might like this police business after all, thus setting up six sequels (duh).
Who?! The most obvious thing is that former NFL star Bubba Smith is one of the main characters in the film and is actually pretty good. Otherwise there are a couple uncredited things on IMDb that are throwing me for a loop. I saw that it was claimed that John Hawkes was in this film in an uncredited part and I was like “I don’t believe you.” But indeed there he was driving a truck and laughing like a maniac. Wow.
What?! Given that the sequel was chock full of product placement it’s a bit of a surprise that the first is not. When they do get the opportunity to get their party on about halfway through the film though the choice is obviously a refreshing Miller High Life. And that stays consistent in the second one as well, so that pretty much turns it around for me. I’m just really into narrative consistency. So now I guess I like Police Academy.
Where?! It’s been a while since we had one but this is purposefully no set anywhere. It is set in The City. None of the license plates have state names on them and it was all filmed in Canada so there isn’t even a place in the US you could say it looks like. There is a weird aspect to the sequel, but I’ll get to that in the other post. F
When?! You think this would be specified by the location would be totally hidden. What I think we’ll come to learn is that the Police Academy series exists outside of space and time. You can never pin down when for time is a flat circle for the police academy. It just is and will ever be. Over and over and over for all eternity.
This film was just as incredibly offensive as pretty much every 80’s comedy is at this point. A number of the established police officers are outspoken racists and sexists. The film is rife with gay panic. Even our hero Mahoney throws around a few homophobic slurs here and there. A major plot point is that the head of the academy mistakenly gets a blowjob from a prostitute hiding within a podium while he’s giving a speech (for real). It’s already crazy but then when he looks back at the podium Mahoney pops out and he goes into a tailspin. The thought that he received a mistaken blowjob from Mahoney makes this otherwise dumb and loveable character insist that they figure out some way to kick him out of the academy. It’s a bizarre and long gay panic joke. Anyway the only redeeming thing you could say about the humor was that generally the bad qualities are confined to the antagonists. The recruits are all colors and creeds after all, so they are pretty much fully tolerant of each other. Still, though, Mahoney does come off poorly as he spies on ladies in the shower and sexually harrasses a fellow cadet. Always strange to watch an 80’s comedy now. Other than I laughed a couple times and I can see why at the time some people liked it I guess. Funny enough it reminded me a lot of the film CHIPS… except that was made today and boy did it not work anymore. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Remember when the mayor allowed anyone into the police academy and we all became gross misogynists and homophobes? No? Well in the alternative universe of Police Academy we did apparently. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – When I told my father-in-law I was watching this film he was somewhat aghast. Because in his estimation Police Academy was on the same level of Airplane! The reviews disagree obviously, but it is definitely interesting. Bill Clinton apparently loves all of these films. Growing up things like Spaceballs (58% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Robin Hood Men in Tights (43% on Rotten Tomatoes) were films I watched multiple times a year, so it has to just be the times we live in. I guess I was ready to see why Police Academy because such a hit in that it spawned 6 sequels.
The Good – Guttenberg is very charming in the film, to the point where despite him being an objectively terrible person you still kind of like him. The ensemble cast is put together well and is well used top to bottom it feels like, they all serve a somewhat interesting purpose in the original film. This is less of an Airplane! and more of a discount-Stripes in reality. If you like Stripes, then this is a pretty good version of that type of movie I think. I also secretly love how Guttenberg plays to blowjob gag … you’d have to watch the movie to know what I mean, but that part holds up surprisingly well.
The Bad – My god, the homophobia, the misogyny. I know I shouldn’t be shocked, but it is shocking. Guttenberg sexually harasses and (possibly) assaults ladies throughout the film (but they love it don’t they? You salty dog you), everyone just cannot believe that there are gay clubs in Big City USA (and if you don’t watch out the big burly gay men will dance with you! The horror, the horror). It is on occasion played for a solid laugh, but mostly is just really dated and gross. The main issue otherwise is that the film just doesn’t seem to really have a plot. It is a cut rate Stripes. A bunch of jokers go to the Police Academy, shenanigans etc. etc., they are semi booted from the program, they have a big (somewhat self-inflicted) adventure where they become heroes. It just doesn’t have nearly the comedic chops to pull it off (and Stripes nearly doesn’t, the third act is an honest to god catastrophe!).
You Just Got Schooled – Did you know that they made two Police Academy television shows? Did you know you can watch the pilot for the 1997 live action one on YouTube complete with commercials? My main takeaway: Commercials from 1997 were wild, and also I watched too much television when I was like 10 because I remember every single one of these commercials (literally). Oh the show? Not shockingly terrible. I’m not surprised it got cancelled, but it isn’t actually as brutal as you might think. It is silly, but also kind of funny if you aren’t too concerned with it having any kind of continued story … well, except for the entire pilot hinging on the cadets beating a motorcycle gang in a ice hockey game. It is an hour long, the acting all sucks, the gags all suck, and the writing sucks. It is shocking what people would put on television in the 90s. This is 1997! Let’s just say it isn’t exactly competing with Frasier and Seinfeld for the Comedy awards.
The BMT – Of all of the franchises we could do, this is the one I think that is the most important. In the 80s there were plenty of franchises that were driven into the ground. The most notorious were horror franchises, like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. But comedy film franchises usually don’t grow so large. The Earnest films and Beethoven films are kids films and thus logically transition nicely to straight-to-DVD. The only equivalent I can think of is the American Pie franchise in the 2000s. Even then, it is beyond crazy that Guttenberg in particular is in the first six of these films! They were cash cows and everyone knew it and have openly stated that that is why they acted in them. It is kind of fantastic.
Welcome to Earf – Kim Cattrall is in both Police Academy and Bonfire of the Vanities with Morgan Freeman, who was the narrator of Conan the Barbarian (2011) with Ron Perlman, who was in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale with Leelee Sobieski, who was in Here on Earth. Welcome to Earf!
StreetCreditReport.com – While not actually in the list Police Academy gets a shoutout in this 10 worst list of 1984, which suggests it is a possible borderline honorable mention. Its real claim to fame is as a franchise where it basically redefined what a “franchise” meant. The fact that it is on that list which is obviously heavily skewed towards recent films still mentioned it at number three says everything you need to know about how important Police Academy is as a bad franchise.
Still got one more of these to do. Cheerios,