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Police Academy
1984 - R - 96 Mins.
Director: Hugh Wilson
Written By: Pat Proft and Neal Israel
Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Michael Winslow, Donovan Scott, David Graf
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Police Academy" might as well be named "The Neverending Series," as it has spawned seven - count 'em, seven - unwanted films, two or three television shows, and a reputation as the worst series of all time. It is as if Ed Wood has swooped down from Heaven and given the films his magic touch.

It's about a team of misfits who join a police academy. They include: Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall), Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith), Leslie Barbara (Donovan Scott), Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow), and Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf).

Of course, they are terrible cops. And of course as their training commences they screw up. This could be funny if it hadn't been done in 1981 with the much funnier "Stripes," about two women-crazy men who join the US Army in hopes of getting babes and cash. This is just an all-out rip-off -- from the plot to Steve Guttenberg's Carey Mahoney, whose sarcastic quips and attitude is copied off of Bill Murray. To no avail.

Mahoney's little team go through some major trials and tribulations, starting with a cop at the academy taking a vengeance against them. (Why? Because it's the biggest cliche of the underdog movies!) He is a ruthless player in the game of cadets -- he hates them so much he will stop at nothing to stop them. Wouldn't it be easier just to let them graduate and seperate onto the streets, where he will never see them again? Didn't this thought ever cross his mind? Probably not -- he is, after all, a typed character. There is a difference between typed characters and written characters. Written characters appear on paper, but they have life and mind of their own. On the other hand, typed characters have one thought in life -- to do everything the script tells them to do.

I laughed very little at "Police Academy." It is rightfully one of the most famous films of all time -- bad films of all time, that is. "Police Academy" is often referenced to as a scale of awfulness. I've heard people say things like, "That cake was about as good as 'Police Academy 4.'" Okay, maybe I haven't, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear it referenced in such a way. In fact, it would be a great secret code for movie geeks to be able to make fun of their relatives' food without letting their conversations be deciphered. ("Thanks, Aunt Madge, that apple sauce was almost as good as 'Police Academy 6'!")

I will say that "Police Academy" is the best of the series, but how it spawned a total of seven films and hoards of television shows is beyond me. Perhaps if the first film had been good we would have seen some obvious sequels -- but this is mediocre. At best. And it is a copy off of every other underdogs movie out there (specifically "Stripes"). If anything, I'd rather have a gazillion "Stripes" sequels than this sorry mess called filmmaking.

First of all, Steve Guttenberg is not a funny man. Whoever thought casting him as the main character must have been nuts. He can't deliver comical punchlines whatsoever. Whereas Bill Murray can use his smart-alecky tones to a great advantage, and can also make a lovable character, Steve Guttenberg just walks around with a stupid grin on his face and makes stupid, smart aleck remarks. Not funny. Definitely not a lovable character. Are we supposed to care for him at all?

The only character I remotely liked in this film is David Graf as Tackleberry. His acting in this film seems to be the only acting that is inspired. He really gets into his character and has fun. Tackleberry plays it as the straight man -- he doesn't grin or laugh at his own jokes. He loves weapons and, in the funniest scene of the entire movie, they go through a target practice range. Tackleberry leaps behind the targets, blows them away, rolls across the ground, fires, etc. David Graf's career really went nowhere after this. He appeared in a straight-to-Disney channel film called "Brink" (1998) and then starred in "Rules of Engagement" (2000), a blockbuster film with Tommy Lee Jones that started to put his career into high-boot after all these years. David Graf passed away in 2001 due to cardiac arrest.

"Police Academy" is, without a doubt, the most painfully embarrassing, shameful and unfunny series in all the history of filmmaking. What, exactly, does it take to make a movie nowadays? Obviously little inspiration, little aspiration, and little thought. It's sad to think that there are millions of unproduced scripts floating around out there in Hollywood -- some really great, A-material scripts -- that are pushed aside for...this?
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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