Arnie is a cop and needs testimony of a drug scum-lord's missus, who has run away to Oregon with her kid. So Arnie goes undercover as a primary teacher to track her down through the brat. While he is romancing single parent fellow teacher Penelope Ann Miller, the pony-tailed baddie (Richard Tyson) and his monster mother (Carroll Baker) are well on their way to bring a little thuggery into the lives of the school staff and pupils.
Taking time out on the action-man front between Total Recall and Terminator 2, Big Arnie now followed up his commercial success in the very bland Twins (yes, believe it or not, Twins was a hit) by re-teaming with director Ivan Reitman for another soft-centred comedy thriller.
This time around he is John Kimble an Austrian somehow working as an hard-nut for the Los Angeles Police Department, who transfers out of his macho man surroundings into a kiddie movie suburbia when he has to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher. Although the first and last thirds are a densely plotted blend of humour and thrills, Kindergarten Cop sags desperately in the middle.
The initial joke of facing the man mountain from The Terminator with the one obstacle he can’t possibly overcome — a classroom full of six-year-olds — fades almost instantly as the Macaulay Culkin-wannabe tykes proudly trot out in succession their personalised cute mannerism and Arnie miraculously but expectedly turns from gruff kid-hater to dewy-eyed super-teacher in the space of an aerobics montage.
With a heart of purest mush, Kindergarten Cop still manages to be generally entertaining, even for folk with an aversion to Aryan body builders or perky pre-teenagers, while some of the jokes are a reminder that Reitman was once a promising comic talent, and the thriller stuff benefits from a stronger-than-usual set of villains and a nicely-judged sidekick performance from Pamela Reed as Schwarzenegger’s gourmet colleague.
As a one-off this could have inoffensively scraped by on thin charm alone. But don't forget kids, it gave rise to such monstrosities as Last Action Hero, Junior and Jingle all the Way…
Reviewed by Kim Newman