Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987) — A bloated donkey corpse in July


Justin’s rating: Five bullets in six-chambered revolver which loads from a seven-stock belt out of a nine-piece outfit.

Justin’s review: Okay, now there might be rules on trilogies, but when a series heads into its forth film, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sure, that sheriff might be direct-to-video, marking this film series as a lame joke, but sometimes that sheriff might be rustling up the posse for an a new twist. Star Trek IV took Trek into comedy, Critters 4 went to space, and The Next Karate Kid got downright Swanky.

The Police Academy movies are seen by many as a low-rent Naked Gun gagfest, or a high-rent episode of COPS. I personally like the movies, mostly because they embrace the best of what eighties cinema had to offer (collective groan from the audience: “Oh, jeez, not THE EIGHTIES lecture AGAIN! Please! I’d rather have my colon sucked out my belly button than that!”).

A bunch of screw-ups, all with one-note characters (Look! Jones makes funny sounds! Tackleberry likes heavy weaponry!). There’s a Mean Enemy and a Big Enemy. The Mean Enemy usually is associated with the goofballs and tries to make them look bad at every opportunity. He has no sense of humor and is repeatedly humiliated by said goofballs. The Big Enemy does criminal acts, but is easily caught after an extended chase sequence. And happily, there is no attempt at realism. I don’t need realism when I watch movies, I need fluffy elephants slipping on squirrel leavings and gratuitous music sequences.

Have I even begun to talk about this movie! Good gravy, no. Although Police Academy 5 was a decent run (and about the last watchable Police Academy movie made), number four is the end of the original franchise. You know what I’m talking about — Steve Guttenburgenstein. Despite being as famous as Showgirls and rich as many kings, Steve decided that this was it for Officer Mahoney.

At the film’s onset, we’re treated to the most ’80s rap ever (you know, back when you could understand the words rappers were rapping about) and the worst criminal act known to mankind: skateboarding. The district is overrun or something by like three skateboarders, one of whom is David Spade in his first movie role. Seriously: David Spade, skateboarder. I guess we all have to start somewhere.

In an attempt to pass the torch to a new generation of policemen, our beloved heroes start a C.O.P. program to semi-enlist citizen helpers. That seems like a very irresponsible thing for police to do, sort of akin to luring human shields to protect the Real Cops. So we have the old school of Mahoney, Jones, the big guy who is Bubba Smith, the blonde bombshell, and all the rest. They pal around with The Policedudes: The New Batch, which consist of David Spade, a bloodthirsty old lady, and a really fat guy who’s the only one to make it onto Police Academy 5.

Thus follows a long sequence of Harris “This program is going to fail and I’m gonna make it fail,” Mahoney “Just give them a chance, I know they can do it,” new screwballs going through training, a few romances, Evil Guy shows up, everyone saves the day. My favorite underdog is Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait), whose voice and face flutters and fluctuates as much as a ’70s cartoon. He’s funny and frightens the hell out of everyone else. I like that in people.

Is Police Academy 4 a superb film? Um, no. Is it juvenile and appeals to the low-brow among us? Yes. Does it even blatantly rip off concepts and plots from the first three flicks? Yuppers. But does it contain the best porta-potty-exposed scene in film history? You know, I do think so. And does Jason make a cameo that is better than all of the Friday the 13th movies combined? Hallelujah, yes. It’s the small things in life that make it worthwhile. Essentially, the Police Academy movies are college parties endorsed by major city organizations. I can live with that.

Sue’s rating: Juvenile, frustrating and imbecilic — and that was just the trip to the video store!

Sue’s review: Honestly. I was absolutely stunned to discover that in the great switchover from VHS to DVD, my local renting haunt didn’t just not have Police Academy 4, they didn’t have ANY Police Academy movies at all! Oh humanity, what hast thou wrought?

Anyway, after that fiasco and an equally unproductive trawl through the bargain bins at Wally World, I signed up for Netflix. This is a crying shame because by golly I want to support the local merchants and the Chamber of Commerce and all that. But when a store doesn’t carry a cinematic staple like the Police Academy series, it’s time to take a stand. In the end, I hauled out my credit card and kicked my web browser into gear and within three days I found the telltale little red envelope snuggled cozily in my mailbox. So on with the review!

This movie is as rotten as a moldy mouse in a glue trap.

Y’know, after everything I went through to rent it (on assignment from Fearless Leader himself, no less) I really REALLY wanted to love it. I wanted to laugh, to cry, to be moved to go forth and achieve great and glorious things on the strength of my cinematic experience. In retrospect, my expectations might have been a bit too lofty and I have taken that under consideration.

It still stank like a bloated donkey corpse in July. Don’t ask me how I know what one smells like, just trust that I do. And that this did.

Anyway, when the only entertainment value of a movie has to be dredged from watching David Spade in his jailbait era, or spotting the Tony Hawk cameo, it cannot be considered a resounding success. Besides, I do believe this was made before Tony Hawk was, well, Tony Hawk… and that means that Police Academy 4 has actually, incredibly, improved with age. Bleurch.

The movie itself is the story of a sort of beefed-up neighborhood watch program — and basically about how members were recruited and trained, although they did have to throw in a little actual criminal activity just for the look of the thing. Of the dozens of citizens trained for patrol, other than David Spade, I can only remember two of them. One of them was a little old lady. The other one wasn’t.

The comedy elements — I assume that’s what they were — lacked any sort of subtlety, timing, cleverness or… sadly, humor. I have a feeling that the writers either ran out of inspiration or caffeine (probably both) and stretched the pratfalls and practical jokes out as far as they could in an effort to push the entire film to an acceptable feature length. Did we really need a 12-step program for swapping out Right Guard with Mace? It was sort of like “Wacky Hijinks For Dummies,” only the For Dummies books tend to be well written and entertaining. This was just boring and inane.

Augmenting my time-stretching theory were two pointlessly long interludes; one of a police car aimlessly driving around and the other of skateboarders aimlessly, uhm, skateboarding around. Even the inevitable climactic chase scene smacked of “Let’s see how long we can pan on a hot air balloon with our camera before the audience wanders off to find popcorn or check for nose hair or something.”

I know, I know, Justin lauds movies like this for the exact reasons I just cited for hating it. But with all due respect, there’s not a thing here that wasn’t done better, smarter and smoother in any given Road Runner cartoon you care to mention. (And the dialogue was better in those too.) In fact, the audience this is best suited for — the five-to-10-year-old demographic — is summarily disqualified by occasional obscenity and adult-oriented schtuff. More’s the pity.

Didja notice?

  • A pre-legs-crossing Sharon Stone graces this film, which begs the question: is an icepick why Steve Guttenburg disappeared after PA4?
  • Zed – Future Poet Laureate.
  • Mahoney addresses Harris as Sergeant, but in this film, Harris is a Captain.
  • Is there any more dramatic way to escape a body bag than with a chainsaw?
  • The wrath of the pigeon.
  • New low impact exercise fad – underwater bicycling.
  • Armpits in traction.
  • No porta-potty should be without quality reading material… like Archie comics!
  • Bi-planes, motorcycles, hot air balloons, golf carts! Could anything be more exciting than this? Well…. Yes.

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