Warner Bros. // 1980 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Neal Masri (Retired) // March 3rd, 2006
The education they got wasn't in books.
A largely forgotten attempt by Mad Magazine to ape the late '70s movie success of National Lampoon makes its DVD debut.
A plucky group of teenage boys is sent to a stern military academy by their overbearing parents. They get more education than they bargained for when they take on the sadistic Major Liceman. Hilarity allegedly ensues.
Hot on the heels of National Lampoon's Animal House came Mad Magazine's Up The Academy. The Academy of the title is one of those oppressive, only-in-the-movies military academies called Weinberg Military Academy.
Weinberg is a place where well-to-do families send their ne'r-do-well sons. Our protagonists are just such a group. The kids are very unhappy to be in military school. They are the sons of a mobster (a very young Ralph Macchio [The Karate Kid] in his feature debut), a rich evangelist, a politician, and an Arab sheik.
Of course, a group of misfits in a movie like this needs a nemesis. The heavy in this case is Major Liceman (Ron Leibman, Norma Rae). Liceman is suitably slimy and unlikable, seemingly channeling Dean Wormer of the aforementioned Animal House.
The plot of the movie basically involves our group of kids becoming friends and uniting to humiliate and defeat Liceman. There also is a subplot involving a traitor in their midst. I assure you that you'll figure out who it is long before the protagonists.
As you might imagine, a supposedly hilarious faculty populates Weinberg. First, we have a flatulent and senile headmaster (Ian Wolfe, THX 1138). There is also an effeminate dance instructor (Tom Poston, Christmas with the Kranks) with an unhealthy interest in young boys. My personal favorite is a beautiful weapons instructor played by Barbara Bach, hot off of The Spy Who Loved Me. Ms. Bach's ridiculously low cut uniforms are obviously the highlight of Weinberg for the young, pubescent students.
The movie is rated R, but not nearly as bawdy as most of the comedy material of the era (or even more recent releases like American Pie). There is no nudity and some light sexual content. Axe a couple of F-bombs and this one could be rated PG-13 today.
Video is surprisingly solid on this release. The widescreen composition is fairly good for a film of this type. Colors are solid and source material is in good shape. Sound is front focused with surrounds and the subwoofer accentuating the music. The music is noteworthy and worth mentioning. Up The Academy features an interesting post-punk soundtrack with artists like Lou Reed, David Johansen, and Blondie. I found myself humming along more than once. There are no extras other than a vintage trailer.
According to the Internet Movie Database, the editorial staff at Mad Magazine wound up disowning this movie. Further, Ron Leibman had his name removed from the credits. Mad Magazine never attached their name to a feature film again. Ironically, National Lampoon has attached their name to much worse drivel in the ensuing years.
Revisiting this movie after about twenty years was an interesting experience for me. I first saw it in the early days of cable. I was probably about 12 years old and seeing an R rated movie was a huge deal for me at the time. I remember finding Up The Academy quite risqué and very funny as a 12 year old. What a difference a couple of decades make.
I suppose Up The Academy is what it sets out to be -- juvenile humor involving flatulence, gay jokes, lots of cleavage, and fecal matter in a punchbowl. There's also some pretty good music.
Up The Academy is a vintage slice of late '70s teen comedy cheese. While derivative of other, better films, the target audience may find something redeeming here. Unless you're a pre-teen male or someone in their thirties with fond memories, don't bother.
Guilty. Say it again! Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2006 Neal Masri; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer