Warner Bros. // 1987 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // April 23rd, 2004
If the third time's the charm, the fourth time's the harm.
Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes, Tootsie, Punky Brewster) has a new idea to help out the flagging members of law enforcement. His innovative program is called C.O.P. -- Citizens on Patrol -- and it will allow everyday people to aid the police in taking a bite out of crime. So whom does Lassard put in charge of this complex and highly unorthodox program? Why, the stupid simpletons and bumbling buffoons of Police Academy, that's who. And by-the-book Capt. Thaddeus Harris (G.W. Bailey, M*A*S*H, Mannequin) is not happy about it. He will do anything to stop officers Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg, Cocoon, The Boys from Brazil) and his man-of-a-thousand-vocal-sound-effects partner Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow) from getting this gimmick off the ground. But it will take more than community outreach and solid dedication to make the plan work. Harris will do anything to make the transition less than smooth, even if it means causing an international incident when some visiting foreign dignitaries arrive to see C.O.P. in action.
In the land of Entertainment Atrocities, near the Britney Spears off-ramp on the William Hung Highway, stands the shrine to the Police Academy movies. This cathedral to crap, so large it dwarfs the temples to Star Search and Studs, and nearly surpasses the churches to Charo and Charles in Charge, houses the hopes of millions of humor fans suckered into scrutinizing these desecrations of celluloid. Now, some say that these dumbed-down displays of dopey comedy are merely mindless amusement, cheerful childishness for the easily bemused. But don't be led on. In any of Police Academy's seven incarnations, these completely appalling acts of visual vandalism are nothing remotely resembling professional filmmaking. They are incompetent amalgamations of moronic content perverted through a Reagan-era ideal that anything written at the retardation level will result in levity.
Stupid comedy has its own niche, one perhaps best exemplified by the absolute rock and roll superstardom of Steve Martin in the mid-to-late '70s. But there was something knowing in the wild and crazy guy's shtick, a self-satisfied sense of irony that is probably responsible for the all-out insincerity that pervades current pop culture. The Police Academy movies may not be accountable for the ceaselessly mean-spirited mocking nature of 2004 society, but they sure demonstrates dimness. One can only shudder at the number of young minds messed up by these mediocrities, and wonder if they now, as grown-ups, have anything to do with championing Elimi-Date, Trading Spaces Family, and those horrible Taco Bell/Pizza Hut/KFC fast food triplets popping up all over town.
As a film, Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol is actually a fraud. It is not really a movie, since by its very definition, a motion picture usually contains a linear plot, concrete characters, and a singularity of vision to create a cohesive whole. PA4COP tries a different tactic to contort its photoplay. The technique, actually called the "free-floating, backwards-glancing plot point," functions in the following manner. A joke is conceived, usually a very lame one. Or maybe it's a slapstick set-piece that is concocted. Anyway, the scene is scripted to include some such hack humor. Then the writers realize that the wayward sequence has to fit -- one way or another -- into the story being told. So they add a line or two referring back to something that happened earlier and feel they've solved the stumbling block. Problem is, such space-time shifting creates chaos and keeps the movie from coming together in a coherent fashion. So all you are left with are a series of gags -- and no single word more appropriately labels the lamentable laughs this filmic phlegm strives for.
Sure, the jokes are beyond juvenile, harkening back to pre-fetal fits of funny. But do they have to be so pedestrian and strained in their execution? Comedy is all about timing and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol has none. Stroke victims have more precision. Even its so-called comic personalities (the ultra-militant Tackleberry, the big-breasted Easterbrook) can't create enough of a delirium diversion to erase the direness here. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol is a serialized sequel on autopilot. Like the road shows of old, it carts out its familiar faces for a few sequences and then pads out the running time with ancillary awfulness.
If there is a saving grace to this slop, it's the sight of future flasher Sharon "Catherine (Basic Instinct) Tramell" Stone trying to jumpstart her greenhorn career by making cow eyes at Steve Guttenberg. It's interesting to note how many of Stone's scenes have ended up in the deleted section of the DVD. Obviously the future Oscar nominee (for Casino, remember?) really wowed them on the set with her vacant Valley Girl glumness. Of the usual Police Academy suspects, only Bobcat Goldthwait, doing his then-novel Tourette's Syndrome silliness, and Tim Kazurinsky, about a billion miles away from Saturday Night Live, make their kooky characters (Zed and Sweetchuck, respectively) worth waiting for. And then it's usually to see how hampered and uninspired they can be. The rest of the regulars are underused and -- typically -- underdeveloped. The movie mostly belongs to G. W. Bailey as Capt. Harris, who makes misguided menace and unnecessary exasperation seem semi-logical. If his character wasn't so much of a cliché (like the crusty old dean or the over-protective father) he might make more of an impact here. But Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol is not about cinema, it's about safety. It's about giving the fan base what they want. It's about never reaching beyond the obvious and the easy for setups or punch lines. When all else fails, the film resorts to static third-act action sequences, but even then it can't get the exploits right. No thriller in its right mind would consider a hot air balloon battle a viable vehicular stunt show. And let's face it: no movie featuring fake skateboarders is ever cool. Period. Such pathetic pursuits are part and parcel of PA4COP and confirm the mediocrity of this movie's maddening methods. The same goes for the series as a whole.
How bad is the presentation of this DVD by Warner Bros.? Let this review
count the ways:
1. PA4COP is presented in a full frame 1.33:1 image that is old, faded, and filled with defects.
2. While a widescreen transfer wouldn't have made the movie any better, at least it would have maintained the theatrical nature of the project.
3. The Dolby Digital Mono is tinny and flat, with the front channels churning out almost inaudible aural misery. Yes, the dialogue is understandable, but that is also part of the problem.
4. Of the extras, we get a 20-minute segment from a much longer Police Academy documentary that offers very little insight into the film. This bonus featurette definitely gives the impression of something you've walked into the middle of.
5. Also included here are the deleted scenes, which are interesting since we get more of Stone, Guttenberg, and the crotch-sniffing antics of police dog Clarence. Director Jim Drake explains why these scenes were omitted and, for the most part, you understand the choices.
6. Aside from the Caddyshack-meets-Animal House-inspired trailer, that's the sum total of this "Anniversary" edition's bonus content. Whoop-pee.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol is garbage. Devotees who grew up with this flaccid farce may take exception to such a classification, but if they could only look with eyes unclouded by nostalgia, they would see what is excruciatingly evident to everyone else: this carbuncle of non-cinema needs lancing, draining, and dissolving immediately. Soviet Russia used to rewrite history to conform to modern ideals. The sooner we erase this errant series of stupid films from the photoplay books, the better. And, if indeed, the Stonecutters are responsible for this, all that can be said is Damn you! Damn you all to hell!
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Featurette: Remembering a Lofty Investigation
* Additional Scenes
* Theatrical Trailer