Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Police Academy (1984): A Review

A film by Hugh Wilson

Those who are disgusted with the entire "Police Academy" series have to look no further than this first movie to find the root cause of their misery. Grossing 81 million dollars in 1984, "Police Academy" set the template for the future movies. The style of the series was set with this first one, though the next six movies never quite hit the level of quality (such as it is) that this first film did.

The new Mayor has relaxed the standards for new recruits to enter the Police Academy. Now, anyone can sign up, and people who would have never considered joining the police force are now attempting to do just that. Included in this group is Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg). Mahoney cannot seem to stay out of trouble with the law (petty stuff, really, nothing malicious), and he is given the choice to either join the Police Academy or go to jail. He is told that he cannot quit, but can be thrown out (little does he know that part of the deal is that the Academy cannot throw him out, either). Mahoney, the prankster that he is, does his best to get thrown out of the Academy.

Along with Mahoney, the Police Academy has several other zany new recruits, among them is the gun loving Tackleberry (David Graf), the soft voiced Hooks (Marion Ramsey), a man with a talent for imitating nearly any sound effect in Jones (Michael Winslow), and also Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall) who appears as Mahoney's love interest. Calling the cadets "screwball recruits" would be perfectly appropriate, and Lt Harris (G.W. Bailey), an instructor at the Academy, wants them all out and sets them up to fail.

"Police Academy" has something of a slapstick comedy. It is very lighthearted, and the characters (the good guys, anyway) are very likeable. I don't think I would want these recruits in an Academy near me, but it was always fun watching this movie. And that is what "Police Academy" is all about: fun. It seems like everyone in the movie is having fun making it, and it works. Granted, the movie is not nearly as funny as I originally found it ten years ago when I was 15, but I can still manage smiles of nostalgia while watching "Police Academy". The characters which the movie focuses on are those, with a couple of exceptions, who will return for sequel after sequel and they are fun characters to get to spend an hour and a half with.

"Police Academy" is the only one in the series to get an "R" rating, which is for female nudity and language. After this one, the series starts to get sanitized, which also seemed to tame the comedy as well. This first film sets up many of the running jokes that continue throughout the series, and perhaps for this reason it is the best of the bunch because it is the most original of the bunch. Still, it is an enjoyable movie.

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