Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986) — It’s like going back to your old high school

“Mahoney must think he’s as dumb as we are.”

Justin’s rating: Domo, domo

Justin’s review: Believe it or not, the Police Academy series actually does have some really funny jokes that have withstood the test of time. It’s not the fault of the better flicks that the unwanted step-children (like Mission to Moscow) have rewritten history to say that this whole experience was universally bad. It’s just the fault of your best friend Willy, who’s not really your friend — he just likes you for your video games and your endless supplies of pudding cups.

After plowing through reviewing this seven-part series in non-chronological order (I think I did them 4, 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 3), I concluded that the third film was before things went really sour. Police Academy 3: Back In Training retains some of the sly, witty humor that made these earlier films a hit before all of the gags would eventually degrade into a non-stop slapstick Twister party.

There’s a saying that goes, if it’s broke, don’t fix it — and if it got slightly broke, reformat your hard drive and reinstall the original discs that worked. Police Academy 2 suffered from a much lower budget, a lack of Lassard, and the non-police academy setting. So the filmmakers rolled the clock back and tried less to reinvent Back in Training and more an effort to recall all the best aspects of the first film while shifting the series into PG mode.

With the return to the academy setting, a new batch of recruits roll in to be instructed by some of our favorite recurring characters (and, let’s face it, some not-so-favorite-but-they-kept-hanging-on characters). New recruits include Brother-In-Law of Tackleberry, Japanese Guy, crazy Zed (rehabilitated from Police Academy 2), and meek Sweetchuck (also from the former flick). Zed is possibly the greatest asset to this series, as he literally goes bonkers in each scene and makes it hilarious to watch — don’t miss his midnight bongo solo in the dorm room!

This movie feels more like a comfy ’80s comedy and less of a tedious crime caper genre, mostly because the bulk of the film pits Lassard’s academy against the somewhat-evil Mauser’s academy, as only one academy will survive due to budget cutbacks. This is a perfect setup for numerous throwaway jokes and scenes, and it flows quite nicely.

For all the one-dimensional notes that these characters have to work with, Steve Guttenberg’s Mahoney is the most puzzling. Mahoney is not only supposed to be this super-womanizer (um… sure, in another universe where all women are blind, perhaps), but he’s meant to be the ultimate anti-authority slacker and leader of the bunch. Explain to me, then, why the entire range of his character and their actions is pretty much tied up in sly grins and shallow inspirational speeches? Let’s face it: In the Police Academy sea of anorexic fishes, Mahoney is nothing more than a paper-thin flounder. Good riddance.

I quite enjoyed Back in Training — not enough to buy it, but certainly enough not to flip the channel if it came on cable one day.

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