Some young inexperienced cops enter the Police Academy and cause some good-hearted high jinks. Hilarity ensues.
What we now know as the Police Academy Franchise™ actually came into being thanks, bizarrely, to The Right Stuff director Hugh Wilson, who become intrigued with the mine of stupidity that could be tapped by dumping a bunch of young, horny misfits into an institution together and seeing what happens.
Enter writer Neal Israel's assorted misfit police cadets — the one who makes all those funny noises, the REALLY BIG one, the psycho gun nut, the — oh, you know — supposedly recruited to the force by some wacky new law that's never quite explained, one clueless yet loveable chief, a psychotic drill sergeant and his buzz-cut goons, and a fitness trainer with the most gargantuan knockers youíve ever seen, and it was game on.
"I remember I had a meeting with the studio," says Wilson, "and they basically told me, 'What we've got here is a one-gag movie. But it's a damn good gag." Having found the perfect location — an abandoned psychiatric hospital (the irony!) in Toronto — the production began work in early 1983, eager to surf the crest of Porky's tidal wave of smutty slapstick.
As it turns out, it's by far the better movie, more evenly paced apart from one awkward incidence of racist Tourettes that probably remains Ron Atkinson's favourite line in a movie ever, but will not be repeated here, and consistently funny. The studio may have been constantly putting the pressure on to up the levels of nudity - hence the hastily added 'shower' and 'jugs around the bonfire' scenes of which Guttenberg is so enamoured - but for the most part, Police Academy's sense of humour is naive and sweet, impossible to resist.
In part this is thanks to some cracking casting in support: human beat box Michael Winslow and Marion Ramsey's timid cadet (who had met Michael Jackson on Broadway the night before her audition, mimicked his squeaky voice in it and was given the part instantly) are particular stand-outs, while George Gaynes' Commandant Lassard inspires genuine affection - not least because at the time he was a classically trained actor who, as he stood there on the receiving end of the aforementioned podium blow job (from The Devil In Miss Jones' Georgina Spelvin, no less!), must have wondered what on Earth his career had come to.
But as infamous as that gag is - 'That one scene built my house', admits Wilson with a grin - it ís unfair that the movie be remembered solely for it. There is, let us not forget: The Blue Oyster bar, the gay dance joint ripped off as recently as American Pie 3; the head up the horse's ass sequence (always guaranteed to bring the house down); the Podium Part Deux, and the shoe polish on the megaphone moment.
Revisit the last one especially. Not only was it introduced to the script by a crew member who had pulled the prank for real on Michael Winner (having suffered his insults for too long on a previous set), but Gaynes' reaction shot is simply priceless.
Hardly high art then, but Police Academy deserves far better than you looking down your nose at it. Just consider: with a huge (for its time) gross of $39 million, it was the seventh-biggest movie of 1984, just behind the likes of Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Gremlins. For a screwball, R-rated comedy in that esteemed company which then went on to repeat its box office domination the world over, that's a haul that commands your utmost respect. Not least when you compare it to that of its last and one can only hope final sequel, Mission To Moscow. Ready for it? $126,247.
It's a sad legacy for the Friday The 13th of the comedy genre. Sadder still that come part five, the sequels had got so bad that even Guttenberg couldn't take the humiliation any longer and bailed. That said, we can safely assume that none of them will go on to receive the prestigious Special Edition treatment that their elder, classier brother here does, which is something of a compensation.
As self-confessed fan and imitator, Bobby Farrelly, says: 'There are two movies without which I would not be doing whatever the fuck it is that I'm doing now, Airplane and Police Academy'. And whichever way you look at it, it's Academy that's got the better tits. And amen to that.
Released: 07 June 2004
- Commentary by Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook, G. W. Bailey, director Hugh Wilson and producer Paul Maslansky.
- All-new reunion documentary — Behind Academy Doors: Secret Files Revealed (30 mins).
- Theatrical trailer.
Fun comic caper with splashes of naïve humour and a dollop of nudity thrown in.
Reviewed by Mark Dinning