January 17, 2013

Police Academy (1984)
Starring Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, Kim Cattrall, and Michael Winslow

Comments:  In my opinion, Police Academy is the first really controversial entry on my countdown, because I know what the visceral reaction is going to be to it.  Most of the people who grew up in the 80's and who see "Police Academy" on a movie countdown are going to have the exact same reaction.  They are going to say "You mean that dumb movie with all those terrible sequels?  Why would you even waste five minutes writing about Police Academy? That whole franchise was an embarrassment."


Well yes, I will agree with you.  The Police Academy franchise sucked.  It sucked hard.  I wouldn't wish most of the Police Academy movies on my worst enemy.  

However, the first Police Academy movie did NOT suck, and it is high time it gets the respect that it has always deserved.

One of the things I love to say when I am talking about movies is to forget about sequels.  Forget all of them.  Because a sequel has nothing to do with the original.  A sequel was a different movie made by different people, under different circumstances, and usually starring different actors and made by a different director.  Yes, if done right a sequel can continue a story, true, but usually it was just a quickie way to cash in on what was probably a hit movie.  By definition a sequel doesn't have to contain any character development, it doesn't have to introduce anything new, all it has to do is follow the exact same formula that people loved so much in the original.  Oh, and the second and third time around the actors will probably just be phoning it in.

And in no franchise does that paragraph apply more accurately than to the Police Academy franchise.

Police Academy one?  Hilarious comedy.  Easily one of the funnier movies of the 80's.  

Police Academy two?  Funny, but ultimately irrelevant.  It is a different movie that was made by different people and I don't really care about it.

Police Academy three through infinity?  Irrelevant to any of the discussion.  At that point a great edgy R rated comedy became a stupid PG rated family franchise, and everybody was just in it for a paycheck.

Police Academy was released in 1984, and right off the bat it was notorious.  Why?  Well because it is the first movie I can ever remember that Siskel and Ebert gave zero stars.  Seriously, go read Roger Ebert's review of the original Police Academy movie.  He gave it zero stars.  In fact in his review I think he said something like if you and your friends want to go see this movie, you would be better off pooling your money and making your own movie.  Or something like that.  He really did hate it.  And I have no idea why.  I am wondering if maybe somebody just cut him off in traffic on the way to the theater that day.  Or maybe the counter girl at Wendy's forgot to put sour cream on his potato that afternoon.  All I know is that he hated Police Academy with a passion, and he told everybody else that they should hate it too, and I have never understood why.  I can think of a hundred movies from the 80's that were worse than Police Academy.  And I can only think of about ten or so that were any funnier.

The plot of Police Academy is as follows.  In 1984 a forward thinking woman is elected mayor of a large American city (I forget which city she is the mayor of, I don't think they actually say in the movie), and she passes a law stating that the police department will no longer be able to discriminate based on what type of a person you are.  From now on, the police department will be open to women, it will be open to minorities, it will be open to the weak, it will be open to criminals, it will be open to the handicapped.  Basically it will now be open to anyone.  And of course this means that hundreds of people who have no business EVER being a police officer run down to the precinct and sign up.

And, well, to use an old cliched expression, at that point hilarity ensures.

Don't unpack

Seriously, like I said before, I don't know if I could name more than ten movies from the 80's that were any funnier than Police Academy.  At the very least, it was at least as funny as Revenge of the Nerds.  In fact it was basically the exact same story as Revenge of the Nerds.  Outcasts try to fit in somewhere that they don't belong, they fail, they are mocked, and then they band together to suddenly become really good at it and actually surprise everyone.  Bam, that is Revenge of the Nerds, and that is also Police Academy.  And I have never understand why one is considered a classic comedy of the 1980's and the other one is treated like dog shit.

Police Academy has one of the best ensemble casts of any comedy of the 1980's.  Yes I know it was ridiculous to see the exact same characters do the exact same stuff in six different sequels, but if you go back and you watch the first one you can see how new and how funny it was.  Steve Guttenberg has never been better in a movie (although that really isn't saying much.)  David Graf (Tackleberry) is easily one of my favorite movie characters of all time, in the original Police Academy he was a complete psychopath.  Bubba Smith was great as the reluctant florist Hightower ("You know, flowers 'n shit.")  I loved the two douchebag suck-ups Copeland and Blanks.  Marion Ramsey as Hooks practically steals the entire movie.  And then on top of that you have G.W. Bailey as Lieutenant Harris (a great underrated 80's bad guy) and George Gaynes (Punky Brewster's father of all people!) as the idiotic Commandant Lassard.  I defy anyone to watch Police Academy now and tell me this wasn't a fun movie.

And I haven't even talked about Michael Winslow the sound effects guy or Leslie Easterbrook's chest yet!  Or the world famous Blue Oyster Bar!

Michael Winslow the sound effects guy.  Always a crowd pleaser.

Steve Guttenberg.  The Gute.

One of things that I think gets lost about Police Academy is the fact that the original was NOT a kid's movie.  No way, not even close.  This was about as R rated as a comedy could get.  I mean, one of the running gags in the movie is that people who are standing at a podium will wind up getting a blow job.  People forget how edgy and how R rated the original movie was.  Of course the sequels got much more kid friendly along the way, not to mention much more family friendly.  And that is the "Police Academy" that most people remember.  So I think most people will be surprised if they go back and watch the original and they see how R rated it was.  Although it makes sense if you look at who made it.  The same people who wrote Police Academy also wrote Bachelor Party.  Believe me, these were NOT movies I was allowed to see when I was a kid.

"... which I think is good.  Very good for the academy."

Police Academy is one of those comedies that I go back and watch every couple of years, and it absolutely stands up as well now as it always has.  It is still funny.  The writing is still good.  The characters are still great.  The music is still awesome.  I have never understood why people think that they hate this movie.  In fact there are some dramatic scenes in Police Academy that you forget are even in there.   There is one scene with Hooks and Hightower that is about racism that is about as far from comedy as you can get.  Again, people forget that Police Academy wasn't just a mindless comedy.  There was some actual social commentary in there.

Also, at one point a guy gets his head stuck in a horse's butt.

So there is a little something for everyone.

You told no one?  Not a soul.

All in all, Police Academy is one of the better comedy movies of the 80's, and it is a damn shame that it has been lumped in with its sequels for so many years.  I mean, it is funny, it is inspiring, it has some really iconic scenes and characters.  The music is great.  It has a great ending.  So what's not to like?  I defy you not to laugh when Tackleberry starts Tackleberrying up and he goes madass on someone.  Especially the scene at the shooting range where he goes crazy and he starts kicking down doors.  These are the kind of scenes that make comedy fun.

Tackleberry about to lose his shit

If I had one wish for this entry, it is that everyone who reads this goes out and finds Police Academy and they watch it again.  Because I know that just about everyone has seen it at least once.  But I bet you haven't seen it in a long time.  And I bet you have forgotten how funny it was.  And how charming it was.  And, I know this is weird, but for a really edgy R rated comedy I bet you have forgotten how good hearted and innocent it was.  It really was a different type of comedy from a different era.  And I think it holds up about as well as any comedy from the 80's.

As I mentioned before, it is certainly as funny and as charming as Revenge of the Nerds was.  And that one is considered a classic.  So go figure.

When people talk about a movie like Police Academy, they love to use annoying phrases like "turn off your brain" or "mindless comedy."  But fuck that.  Police Academy is just a funny movie, period.  Aint no turning off your brain about it.  You watch it and you are going to laugh, I don't care how smart or how not smart you are.  A funny movie will always be funny.

What you will NOT expect is that when you watch Police Academy, and you will find yourself actually being charmed by it.  That is something that no one sees coming.  You will find yourself actually pulling for this random little group of misfits.  You will find yourself rooting for Mahoney. You will find yourself smiling when Hooks discovers her inner badass (such a great scene).

Again, this is easily one of the better comedies of the 1980's.  It has never been a bad movie.  I'm not sure why it has taken so long for the world to admit that.  

Don't move, dirtbag!

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about Police Academy

Up the "Academy"... - 9 February 2000
Yep, this is the one that started it all. The right one to blame. "Police Academy" - never duplicated, countlessly imitated.

But before you go throwing any stones...this one is funny.

Yep, believe it or not, its joke success ratio is amazingly high. Is it because it's R-rated? That's a lot of it, but it also has a good pedigree.

Director/co-writer Wilson also created TV's "WKRP in Cincinnati", Israel and Proft have written "Bachelor Party" and some other funny stuff you may have heard of (they had a hand in the "Naked Gun" films).

And the cast, in this instance, is fresh! Guttenberg has seldom been better, nor has Cattrall (well, maybe except for "Porky's"), Gaynes, Bailey, Smith, Winslow or Easterbrook. There are a handful of good lines, more good scenes here than in any four of the sequels you can name and plenty more opportunity for good old raunchy "Animal House"-style guffaws.

You don't believe me? Think about the scene with the hooker (Spelvin) in the speaker's podium. Then think about the punch line ("Good speech."). You see? Ah, memories.

Take it from a hard-bitten veteran of the series. This is as good as it gets. You want to see a funny movie about cops? Register at your local "Police Academy".

Six stars, plus a star more for Guttenberg's final scene. Classic.

Great Characters, Underrated Slapstick - 11 February 2002
Granted, the tiring six sequels that poorly followed this film made one wonder "Have they given up yet?" But the original "Police Academy" is a great example of ensemble cast of characters and uproarious slapstick comedy. An underrated gem in 1980's comedy. In fact, I dare say that this delightfully funny satire of life in police training has some of the most lovable, wildly hilarious characters of comedies made in the past thirty years. I whole-heartedly recommend watching "Police Academy"...but the sequels...ugh...

Damn Funny Film - 18 September 2006
Subsequent "Police Academy" films were very much a let down. Number 1, HILARIOUS. Number 2, OK, but not a classic. Number 3, better than 2 but not nearly as good as 1. The rest. I cry if I watch them. A chuckle here and there isn't enough for me. Just my humble opinion.

This first, however IS a classic movie. Not an intellectual art film, just a very funny movie that has managed to entertain millions for quite some time. Anyone who walks into this film with the idea that it's anything but a silly, off the wall comedy, and who feels films must have a message or some deep meaning, is in for a disappointment. Honestly, why would some pretentious snob watch this in the first place? The advertising is fairly clear as to what type of movie this is. But I digress.

The basic story line is that a bunch of folks who would never, EVER, have a chance at being police officers under the strict guidelines have their shot when a 'forward thinking' mayor takes over and opens opportunities to EVERYONE. Disaster is being invited here. However, as it turns out, whether or not the recruits really wanted to be cops, they become some damn fine cops. In real life, it's amusing to see that this can actually happen. The best candidates on paper can be the biggest flops and those who, on paper, should be avoided, sometimes excel.

Steve Guttenburg should make a comeback. I really don't give a rat's ass what some may think of him, he's got a lot of comedic talent and he proved it in this riotous (yes, there IS a riot in the film!) movie. Steve, come back, we need ya!

The defining 80s comedy, though not really the best - 5 September 2011
It's hard to say what exactly makes "Police Academy" such a classic. Sure, it was a massive box office hit, but check out the massive box office hits from this last ten years and see how many you completely forgot existed. Maybe "Police Academy" remains so well-known because it spawned such a ridiculous amount of knock-offs. If you wanted to make popular horror in the 80s, you could do it easily by lazily rehashing "Friday the 13th". If you wanted to make a successful comedy, you just had to make this one but with a different kind of academy. Who can forget Rick Sloane's "Vice Academy"-franchise? I can't. I've tried. It may just be a lot simpler though: "Police Academy" is just pretty funny. It's not the most intelligent movie ever made, but it does have a lot of jokes good enough to live through six sequels and stay relatively fresh. The characters are all stereotypes (there are attempts at giving them some depth, but I gotta say those are pretty stilted and pathetic), but at least their one characteristic is usually really funny. Pretty much everyone with a pulse likes to sit back and watch Tackleberry be completely insane, or hear Jones do his Bruce Lee routine, because the actors are so good at what they do. Classic stuff. I don't think "Police Academy" is the best movie ever made, but it's easy to get its popularity.

Hey wait, maybe it's the brilliant theme song. I've got it stuck in my head right now, and so do you. It owns.

Coptastic!!! - 28 November 2005
I have to rate these types of movies on the level of enjoyment they have given me. Police Academy is an absolute classic.

Words used by the 'holier than thou' to describe this film:
derivative, stereotypical, racist, crude, rude, infantile, plot less, chauvinistic, dated, juvenile, adolescent, inane, humourless, exploitative

Words use by me to describe this film:

More people should make more films like this instead of making films like The Piano, Troy, Gladiator or any film that takes itself seriously and as a work of art. If you want to make a movie as art, then play it in some urban art-house gallery loft on a bed sheet suspended from the decaying plasterwork of a quirky pointlessly high ceiling. Leave 'the movies' to us average punters. We don't want none of your farcical takes on modern life or your desperately driven visions of the meaning of life.

We want Tackleberry to smash his cop helmet on the bonnet of a squad car, crying that 'there was gun play sir, and he missed it'. We want Captain Harris sticking a loudspeaker to his mouth and having his lips ringed by brown shoe polish. We want Commendant Eric Lassard saying 'the bitch' when he is asked what he thinks of the lady mayor.

We want dumb movies, yeah baby yeah!

Better than its successors - 29 August 2003
"Who made Steve Guttenberg a star?" sing the stonecutters, a secret masonic cult that Homer joins in a famous episode of the Simpsons. The implication, I think we can all work out, is that Mr. Guttenberg, the star of the early police academy movies, isn't particularly talented. Meanwhile a young Kim Cattrall puts in a wooden performance as his love interest that's still better, and arguably more highbrow, than her sex and the city days.

Whether or not you hold this to be true, the acting talent of Guttenberg and his fellow cadets isn't really important, because the crude (but often funny) jokes themselves are the true stars of the show, from mix-ups at gay bars to oral sex performed in the most unusual of locations, this first installment of the police academy series is a lot more 'adult' than later films. It's also a lot funnier.

Without giving too much away, the scene with the horse is undoubtedly one of the funniest moments in 80s comedy.

* My favorite quotes from Police Academy

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: You make me sick.
Carey Mahoney: Thank you, sir. I make everybody sick.

Cadet Eugene Tackleberry: Drop that stereo before I blow your goddamn nuts off, asshole.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris:  Uh Tackleberry?  We really need to talk.

(side note:  Whenever they show Police Academy on TV, they always change that line to "before I blow your gosh darn knees off, eggroll."  Don't ask me why I remember that.)

[Tackleberry is angrily banging his head against the hood of a car]
Cmndt. Eric Lassard: What's wrong with this man?
Cadet Leslie Barbara: There was gunplay, sir, and he missed it.

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: Hey! Why didn't you guys call me this weekend?
Cadet Kyle Blanks: Well, nothing really happened, sir.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: There was a party, wasn't there?
Cadet Kyle Blanks: Yes, sir.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: Well, what went on?
Cadet Chad Copeland: Dancing, sir. Mostly dancing.

Cadet Chad Copeland: Boy, there sure are a lot of spades around here.
[he sees Hightower standing next to him]
Cadet Chad Copeland: [in a choked voice] Which I think is good. Very good for the Academy.

Moses Hightower: I was a florist.
Carey Mahoney: A florist?
Moses Hightower: Yeah, you know, flowers and shit.

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: What the hell are you doing here?
Cadet Laverne Hooks [timidly]: I wanna be a police officer.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: What? I can't hear you-u?
Cadet Laverne Hooks: [whispering] I wanna be a police officer.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: Don't unpack.

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris: [On their way to a riot zone] We are being sent to a safe area away from the disturbance. Our job will be to divert traffic away from the trouble zone, and to protect public property. You will have live ammunition, but there will be no call to use it - TACKLEBERRY! Do you understand, numbnuts?

Cmndt. Eric Lassard: [Presenting a slide show just as a hooker begins to give him a blow job] Now this first SLIIIDE... shows a very, very interesting thing: our main building. On slide... TWO! We see other view... of... IT! Oh, my God, you wouldn't believe it!

Yes, if you want to see Punky Brewster's dad get a BJ, watch Police Academy

* My favorite scene(s) in Police Academy

I am a huge fan of Tackleberry and Hooks, so just about any scene involving the two of them is a personal favorite.  "It's time that this cop met the public" is a quote that I use all the time, usually in regards to myself.  And of course Tackleberry on the shooting range (where he runs off and goes apeshit) is my favorite scene in the movie.  

In regards to Hooks, I love the "Don't Move Dirtbag!" scene of course, but she has a bunch of other little hilarious moments that no one ever remembers  "Don't move, this is a stick up" is a personal favorite, but there is another scene that cracks my wife and me up every time we watch up.  It is the scene where Lt. Harris is trying to teach her voice command.  There is no way you can watch that scene and not laugh when Lt. Harris starts mimicking her.

(mutters something quietly inaudible)  
Harris [doing his best bashful Hooks impression]:  "whaaaaaaaaaaat?"  

I am laughing just thinking about that.

Okay now I am having fun just naming Police Academy moments.  There is another scene in the movie that ALWAYS cracks me up, but it is kind of subtle so hardly anyone remembers it.  It is the scene where Harris is writing on the chalkboard.  He is saying something to the class like "Police procedures are what you will learn and be graded on," and as he is speaking he is trying to write the exact same thing on the chalkboard.  Only he doesn't write it out longhand, he starts writing it in symbols and in some odd form of rebus.  I don't know, it is impossible for me to explain exactly what he is doing but that scene always makes me laugh because as he his writing, his symbols start to get more and more ridiculous.  I have no doubt that G.W. Bailey improvised that entire thing.  It is just gold.

Hey I thought of one more little Police Academy moment that I love.  I love the scene where Copeland is trying to be a badass and throw Leslie Barbara's books out the window, only he misses and the books hit the bar in the middle of the windowframe instead.  And then Copeland just turns around pathetically and lets out this sad little whimper.  The timing of that two-second moment is just perfect.

I better stop now.  I could sit here and name funny little Police Academy moments all day.

By the way, keep in mind that I haven't seen this movie in five years.  I am just remembering these off the top of my head.

Lt. Harris and his ridiculous little rebus lesson

Police Academy at the IMDB

Police Academy at Wikipedia

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