Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Police Academy

Welcome again to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rant about one of the many DVDs in my home video library.  Today, we get to one of those movies that truly defined my childhood, Police Academy.  This entry is originally dated March 30, 2012.

So in 1978, there was a little movie called National Lampoon's Animal House.  It followed the adventures and wacky hijinks of a frat house on a college campus.  It was a massive hit, and as is the Hollywood way, a bunch of knock-offs were produced.  Perhaps one of the most infamous is Police Academy.

Police Academy is infamous mainly because of the massive franchise it spawned.  When the dust cleared, there were 7 movies in the series.  When the first one came out in 1984, there was one a year for the rest of the 1980s.  In the intro to one of his famous Movie Guides, film critic Leonard Maltin said they came close to emulating the B-movie comedy series of the 1930s.  It even spawned a Saturday morning cartoon, and a syndicated TV show in the 1990s.  It was huge.  And as such, very familiar to a child of the 1980s.

They say you can regard yourself as a true child of the 1980s if you saw a Police Academy movie in the theatre.  I saw #5:  Assignment Miami Beach.  The characters in these movies truly were among my childhood heroes.  It had been ages since I'd seen one, but for a while, on my trips to the city, I'd been seeing the first one in the discount bin at HMV for the low low price of $5.  Damn it, at that price, how could I keep saying no?  Finally got a chance to sit down and watch it tonight.

So the film starts, and we hear its now-iconic theme.  Truly, this theme is far, far better than this franchise deserves.

We are then treated to an opening crawl.  Yes, like Star Wars.  This opening crawl states that a new mayor has just been elected in the nameless city that this film takes place in, and one of her new reforms was drastically reducing the qualifications to the city's police force.  As such, people who were once deemed unfit for police duty are now more than welcome to sign up for the police academy and join the police force.

Not long after, we meet our hero, Carey Mahoney, played by another icon of the 1980s, Steve Guttenberg.  Mahoney has had several skirmishes with the law...nothing serious, just vandalism and mischief that comes with a healthy disrespect for authority.  He's never been thrown in jail, though, because a police captain was good friends with Mahoney's father and always let Mahoney get away with it.  But now, thanks to this new policy, the captain has a brainstorm.  In a variation on the ol' "sentenced to join the Army in the hopes the Army will straighten him out," the captain arranges for Mahoney to enroll in the police academy.  If Mahoney quits, he goes to jail. 

Meanwhile, at the police academy, the chief of police is not pleased with this new situation, fearing that his police force will become full of...undesirables.  Of course, they can't simply flunk out all these new recruits, because that might cause suspicion and cost them their jobs.  So, the chief orders the police academy to make the training as brutal as possible to make all the new recruits quit.  And the job of training/forcing the cadets to quit falls to Lt. Harris. 

And thus begins the adversarial relationship between Mahoney and Harris.  Mahoney can't quit, so he tries his best to get thrown out.  Harris can't throw out Mahoney, so he does his best to get him to quit.

And...there pretty much is no plot.  A bunch of eccentric folks join the police academy, and we see them do eccentric things.  I'm sure you remember them.  There's the quiet giant Hightower, played by legendary football player Bubba Smith.  There's Hooks, the young woman who can barely raise her voice above a whisper, but always manages to bark out forceful orders at the film's climax.  There's my personal favourite, Tackleberry, the paramilitary gun enthusiast who just loves to be in the thick of action.  And then, the man who became an icon of the franchise, Larvrill Jones, who punctuates everything with wacky sound effects of his own creation, played by the incomparable Michael Winslow.  His sound effects are comedic highlights of the film to this very day. 

And Kim Catrall is in this first one, too.  She's also a cadet, falling in love with Mahoney, and is pretty much there just to give him the motivation to become a better person and see this police thing through to the end.  She really doesn't have any defining eccentricities and her character is given nothing to do but stand around a look hot...which Cattrall could really pull off in the 1980s. 

So it's pretty much the law in comedies that things have to turn serious by the end in order to wrap up what there is of a plot and bring things to a satisfying conclusion.  At the climax, a riot breaks out in the city and the cadets are called up to do crowd control.  Lt. Harris is taken hostage, Mahoney and Hightower pull a daring rescue, and they graduate with top honors.  And all of our misfit cops get to prove themselves. 

Man o man.  So much fun seeing it again after all these years.  I think I found it funnier now that I'm a grown up, because I'm finally old enough to get all the sex jokes...and there are a lot of them.  Holy moly, I can't believe my parents let me watch this when I was 8.  Watching it on DVD, I'm pretty sure this was the first time I ever saw it NOT edited for TV, so I was surprised at how many boobs are in this movie.  It really earned its R rating back in the day.

God...the Blue Oyster Bar.  How could I forget the Blue Oyster?  It became one of the best running gags of the franchise. 

But yeah.  Police Academy.  Another classic from my childhood that's good to revisit after all these years. 

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