Police Academy (1984) — This actually is used in some officer training programs

“Thank you sir, I make everybody sick.”

Justin’s rating: Four points off my license

Justin’s review: When you were a kid, I’m sure you had a favorite candy brand. Or two. Or twelve, after which you became diabetic. Think back… what was it? Wasn’t it good? Mmm, yes, sweet, sweet candy. You’d buy it all the time. You loved it. Sometimes, you kept a secret stash of it inside your pillow late at night. That was cool, wasn’t it? Until, of course, your dog found it and puked bright green and purple for the next week.

But in any case, there was just something special about finding a type of candy that you liked, and overdosing on it daily. Sure, there were other candies in the sea, but you found something that worked. Something comfortable and delicious. Something, to this day, challenges your gag reflex because you consumed about four metric tons of it before finally calling it quits. The point, if any, is that even though thinking of that mass-consumed candy today makes you queasy, there’s no reason to call it bad. You just needed to learn tolerance.

The Police Academy series is all about testing the tolerance of a nation’s love, addiction, and seething hatred of all things slapstick in film. People who openly love Police Academy are an endangered species at best, subject to ridicule and spittle by their loved ones. Mothers openly weep over losing a child to the now-infamous Bubba Smith Syndrome. In short, our world is a worse place to live now. Cry, I tell you, weep salty tears for the lost past! Or, you could just rediscover the Gummi Worms of movies, and revive an old tradition. Whatever works for ya.

Police Academy is a tale as old as Aristotle. When the public cried out for protection and humor, the protectors and keepers of the peace rose to the challenge and opened the doors of their training facilities to any freak with a half-witted aspiration to become a cop. As fast as the screenwriters could pump them out, one-joke stereotypes left the factory floor for a career in destiny. Ah, the flimsy premise that launched six sequels!

Going for any laughs that can be increased by an R-rating, once you know the one character trait of any person in this movie, you can successfully deduce his or her role in the comedy stylings:

  • The Anti-Authority Slacker: Challenges authority at all costs, under the motto, “Lighten up, man.” Played by Steve Guttenberg, back when people knew what a Guttenberg really was.
  • The Guy Who Makes Funny Ventriloquist Noises: Uses aural powers to humiliate others. Expect many fart sounds.
  • The Big Dude: Sheer size is referenced a lot, reducing his acting range to glaring at people.
  • The Little Girl With The Tiny Voice: Meek until you push her around, in which case she becomes Pam Grier with an attitude.
  • The Clumsy Guy Who Knocks Over Everything: It’s funnier, because he doesn’t notice how much pain and suffering his klutz nature causes!
  • The Yahoo Who Really, Really Likes His Guns: Poster-child for the NRA and rednecks everywhere. Shoots everything. Is probably the one person from this movie kids would idolize.
  • The Latino/Italian Lover: Oddly enough, not played by me.
  • The Well-Endowed Beauty: Who, of course, never really notices how her looks affect others.
  • The Rich Girl: Might as well have “love interest” stamped on her silver-spooned tongue.
  • The Fat Loser: Fat people running is… well, kinda funny?
  • The Jerk Instructor: Destined to be the butt of every joke. Inexplicable why he came back for nearly every sequel.

To carry on with the candy metaphor — which may possibly be the single worst one I’ve ever come up with — sometimes candy’s really good to you at a certain time in your life. Maybe that’s when you’re a kid, or trying to relive your child-like dreams. Maybe you’re a vegan, and eating candy is offensive to those who love Sugar Cows. So I’m not going to stand here and say that Police Academy is anything more or less than empty sugar calories, which might or might not be your taste of the day.

Lissa’s rating: (Insert joke about hiding under podiums here. I’m too lazy to make one up, and besides, my husband reads this site.)

Lissa’s review: When I was a kid, I was kind of insufferable, in my own special way. I was the oldest child, and my way of getting attention was to be as (obnoxiously) mature and responsible as I could be. This trait (which certainly drove my younger siblings insane at times, hehe) was only sharpened by the fact I was a perennial bookworm. Beyond bookworm. I’m one of the only people I know whose parents told them to stop reading and come watch TV. I think they often regretted it though, because I was a complete snob about movies and TV shows and would usually bring a book.

I’ve mentioned it before, but while my tastes sometimes overlap with my family’s, I usually don’t share the same appreciation for their comedies (and they usually make faces at my dramas). But as a child, I was forced (by the Mother Induced Guilt Trip, easily the most powerful weapon on Earth) to watch such classics as Curly Sue, Problem Child, and Police Academy.

And now, for my secret confession… I might have hated Curly Sue and Problem Child, but I always enjoyed the Police Academy movies.

Yes. I actually like Police Academy. Steve Guttenburg? Bad acting? Hideous ’80s fashions? Henry from Punky Brewster? Bring ’em all on. Just give Duckie a few minutes to get out the door first.

I haven’t watched any of the Police Academy movies in years, so when Justin assigned me the first one I put on a show of groaning but eagerly went to the video store and got it. (And I’m very glad it was the first one, so I didn’t have to join NetFlix to get it, like some people did. For what was a classic ’80s series, these movies are pretty hard to find.) And it was just like I remembered. Almost.

In case you weren’t born when Police Academy was big, the plot is ridiculously simplistic. The Mayor (often referred to as “The Lady Mayor”) has permitted anyone who wishes to go to enroll in the Police Academy, which is run as Army-lite. Naturally this turns up the most undesirable characters around.

Leading the pack is Steve Guttenburg as Carey Mahoney, an unbearable but yet charismatic recruit who can’t quit the Academy because he’ll be thrown in jail (it’s a deal he cut with the captain in his precinct: Go to the Police Academy or go to jail. Does anyone else see something wrong with this?). There’s Kim Cattrall as Guttenburg’s token love interest, which is pretty funny when you consider what she’s been up to these days. There’s the soft voiced, timid Hooks (Marion Ramsey), the gun-obsessed Tackleberry (David Graf), the noisemaking Jones (Michael Winslow), and a host of other one-note characters. And of course, there are the people who want our heroes out of the Academy: Lt. Harris (G.W. Bailey) and his minions.

It’s an ’80s comedy, so you can totally guess what happens. It’s not as uproariously funny as I found it as a 13-year-old, but I still got a few good laughs out of it, and there was only one spot where I had to leave the room because I was too embarrassed to watch. There’s all sorts of inappropriate jokes about women and homosexuals and animals and different racial groups, and Harris seems a bit too obsessed with that cane thingie he carries everywhere, but that’s an ’80s comedy for you. It would never get made in today’s PC-conscious world. Not without serious revision, anyway.

This is where my obnoxious responsible streak kicks in again. My enjoyment of the movie this time around was tempered by an annoying realization: Lt. Harris might be smarmy and obsequious and inconsiderate, but every last thing he said was RIGHT. I mean it. This group was pathetic, and except for Hightower (who must have been put in the “D” group for plot reasons), every single one of them would have scared me on the street as cops. Of course, some of the real cops would probably scare me too, but that’s not my point. My point is that Harris was right. It’s very disturbing, because Harris was one of the villains I remember from childhood. He might not rank up there with Darth Vader or Cruella DeVille for the pure evil factor, but he was someone you loved to hate.

But thinking is not permitted in ’80s comedies, so please disregard the entire last paragraph. In fact, disregard the entire review. It’s fun and it’s silly and it has catchy music and a high nostalgia factor, so it’s completely worth watching, especially when it’s free on network television and you have nothing better to do that night.

Just don’t think while you do it!

Didja notice?

  • “Relax” playing in the parking lot
  • Jones’s 100-pound boombox
  • Losing all your hair is an ego-destroying travesty in the ’80s
  • After Hightower flips the police cruiser over, we can see that there is no engine in the car when Lt. Harris is reprimanding him.
  • Tackleberry’s sweatstains? Yeah, I wish I didn’t either.
  • Steve Guttenburg’s charming half-shirt.
  • ’80s fashions. Not as bad as Flashdance, but still.

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