Warner Bros. // 1988 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // May 15th, 2004
"What can you say about a sequel in which Steve Guttenberg doesn't appear in?" -- Leonard Maltin
In this case, I can say plenty. Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach is not a bad movie by any means. The story is thin soup, but there are inspired moments of humor in between.
Captain Thaddeus Harris (G.W. Bailey, M*A*S*H, Short Circuit) has finally solved his dilemma involving Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes, Vanya on 42nd Street) and his Police Academy. Lassard has passed the mandatory retirement age, which means a promotion for a certain Captain! To commemorate his retirement, Lassard is honored as the Policeman of the Year by his peers at their Miami Beach Convention. Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves led by Tony (Rene Auberjonois, M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller) have smuggled stolen diamonds in a camcorder. When their package is accidentally switched with Lassard's, the crooks make a madcap dash to recover the diamonds. It's up to the wacky misfits to rescue their kidnapped Commandant and nail the crooks.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for the Police Academy series. I fondly remember the first film, which was one of the first R-rated films I was allowed to see. Despite the raunchier jokes going over my head, I laughed a great deal. The following three sequels were entertaining in their own unique way. By the time the fifth installment arrived in theaters, the formula was stretching thin. The second half of the film is a virtual remake of the water-bound kidnapping sequence from Police Academy 3: Back in Training. Despite the repetitiveness, there are clever moments here. The gimmick of smuggled diamonds in a camcorder and having Lassard mistake it for his retirement gift works quite well. The kidnapping begins as a routine act, but they give it a slight twist by having Lassard think it's the planned police procedure. Tackleberry's (the late David Graf, Father and Scout) obsession with firearms is taken to dizzying new heights. The mishaps of Captain Harris and lackey Proctor (Lance Kinsey, Loaded Weapon 1) are the high points of the film. I laughed more than I expected, which is more than I expected from a sequel of a sequel of a sequel of a sequel.
Warner Bros. presents the film in full frame. This has caused some controversy. While the first three and last two entries received new anamorphic widescreen transfers, Citizens on Patrol and Assignment Miami Beach were issued in full frame. The official reason: "widescreen elements were unable to be located at the time." Well, the Police Academy films were shot in open matte, which means that the top and bottom of the image in a full frame transfer reveals what the director didn't want you to see. Director Alan Meyerson is still alive. Why not consult him and simply matte the image to recreate the 1.85:1 aspect ratio? After all, Warner Bros. matted Kung Fu when they shouldn't have. Anyway, the full frame image is grainy and drained of color. It looks like bad VHS rather than the crisp clarity of our favored medium.
As is the case with most of the entries, the audio is Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. It sounds curiously muffled at times. I wonder if they used an existing VHS copy for the elements. It would explain the full frame image and horrible sound.
The original theatrical trailer is presented in full frame, probably in keeping with the transfer. It's in poor shape, but what do you expect by now anyway? A six-minute featurette is interesting, but a tad too short. If they managed to get most of the cast for comments in the featurettes, why not have different combinations record commentary tracks for the films? The track featured on the Special Edition for the first film was terrific and entertaining.
The sequels are all priced to own with a $14.95 retail price. You can find it in most stores for $9.99. I shouldn't recommend a purchase, especially with the full frame transfer. Completists and die-hard fans will definitely want to own it. To those people, I say go ahead. The price will not break any wallets.
Warner is guilty of not trying harder to provide a widescreen version and of skimping on the audio quality of the sequels.
Other than that, call this assignment closed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Making of Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer