Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985) — So much time spent on that subtitle

“You’re not playing with a full deck, are you?”

Justin’s rating: Wacky tacky

Justin’s review: I have some sort of Pavlovian reaction to the Police Academy theme song. Whenever I hear it at the beginning of a movie, my ears perk up, my lips start to whistle along, and my body tenses in anticipation of the World’s Most Awesome Cops suddenly lunging through the screen and into my dreams. The rousing, military march is almost out of place when hitched to the beginning of a slapsticky comedy, but then again, Steve Guttenberg is out of place anywhere, too.

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment was the first of approximately five thousand sequels to the smash hit Police Academy. The slobs-vs-snobs attitude coupled with the outrageous look of zany policepeople hooked audiences everywhere in believing that a certain movie apex had been achieved.

Yet once they started down the long, trudging path of sequels, originality gave way to predictability, R-rating edginess slid into PG-rated timidity, and Guttenberg morphed into Rizzo the Rat. It’s not to say I don’t have affection for the sequels, but no one can stand firm and defend the Police Academy saga entire without issuing many apologies on behalf of a besmirched America.

Police Academy 2 became a halfway house between the risqué original film and the tamer sequels with a PG-13 rating. Still, you can really see the filmmakers trying to be creative with the concept instead of strictly retreading the first film.

Getting away from the Police Academy setting, we meet Cmdt. Lassard’s brother Pete (Howard Hesseman), who’s head of a failing police district overrun by a strange gang led by cracked-voice loon Zed (Bob Goldthwait). Capt. Lassard recruits the help of about half of the returning cast of the first film to help him turn things around, and, if there’s time, to make life generally difficult for watch commander Mauser and his lackey Proctor (O.G. nemesis Capt. Harris wouldn’t return until the fourth flick).

Like a chocolate sampler full of one-note sweets (hip, hip, hooray for coconut-filled crèmes!), the ensemble cast of cops pretty much fulfill their single characteristic once or twice, and then scoot off screen to make room for the others. Mahoney (Guttenberg) is the sly, rebellious prankster; Hightower (Bubba Smith) is the super-strong black powerhouse; Tackleberry (David Graf) is the gun nut; Jones (Michael Winslow) is the funny noise-making martial artist; Hooks (Marion Ramsey) is the meek-voiced lady with an attitude; and so on. A couple future recruits-in-the-making, like Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky), are introduced in civvie roles, but it’s nothing to pee your trousers over.

This movie surprised me upon rewatching it when it came to two things. First, for a film released in 1985, the whole feel and tone of it screams 1978. Half of the gang members are classic disco-era pimps, for example, and there’s very little ’80s feel other than some of the accessory-overloaded punks.

The second surprise was the actual, factual laughs that this flick got out of me. Not a huge amount, mind you, but enough to actually justify this as a comedy in the true sense. Just watching the absent-minded Lassard killing his goldfish in multiple ways is, and always will be, funny bone stuff. Zed was an interesting choice for a lead villain, mostly because he’s so not threatening and you’re never quite sure what he was going to do next — like when Mahoney infiltrates their lair and finds Zed sitting in a half-car watching a sappy film with tears running down his face.

That’s my official report, and I’d like to add that if you can’t make a police movie where cops expend 1600 rounds of ammunition fighting off phantom robbers inside a glass lamp store, then it’s really not worth making.

Didja notice?

  • Bear trap! Barb wire! Artificial doggie! Clint Eastwood! This is one protected… lamp store?
  • Poor fishies and too much food
  • Tear gas is a good kid motivator
  • Yuppies! It was an ’80s thing.
  • Boobs in a PG-13?
  • Balloons make poor penis replacements
  • If you’re a girl riding a motorcycle, it’s movie law that you have to reveal you’re a girl by taking off your helmet and flipping your hair dramatically
  • Any guy who throws a cat is okay with me
  • The string pulling the guy back to the garage door is very obvious
  • 80’s gangs are made up of pimps and 50’s West Side Story jocks
  • Cops get machine guns
  • If you give a speech, you should have music playing in the background
  • Gangs like shopping
  • Lincoln-Ocean-Victor-Edward
  • Don’t play catch with your dog in car tunnels
  • The bathroom key
  • Shampooing can be dangerous
  • Nice wig!
  • The Bruce Lee fight and dubbing
  • The Blue Oyster bar returns! Where the tango contest is still going on!
  • I want an authorization for a full body cavity search… on someone else
  • Tackleberry’s idea of dressing up will make you go blind
  • Earcuffs
  • Poor fish and being boiled alive
  • Gangs had a lot more fashion accessories in the 80’s
  • Cool gang hide-out… everyone should park their gang in abandoned zoos!

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