"If caring is a crime, and trying is a felony, then I guess we're all going to plead guilty."—Sgt. Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg)
This quickie follow-up to the smash hit finds Police Academy graduates Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), Hightower (Bubba Smith), Tackleberry (David Graf), Jones (Michael Winslow), Fackler (Bruce Mahler), and Hooks (Marion Ramsey) back on the beat and just as inept as ever. With a few cast members missing and a budget even smaller than the original, Police Academy 2 has trouble recapturing the chemistry that made the first film such a box office draw.
Facts of the Case
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment. Kind of gives away the whole plot right there, doesn't it? The local precinct, run by Captain Peter Lassard (Howard Hessman), is unable to stop Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait) and his gang of miscreants, so Peter hires some recruits from his brother Eric (George Gaynes) at the Police Academy. Before long, everyone's favorite screw-ups reunite to help cleanup crime in the area, but there's more to deal with on this assignment than just criminals. With the help of his dimwitted assistant Proctor (Lance Kinsey), Lt. Mauser (Art Metrano) attempts to sabotage the Academy graduates to get Peter fired and become Captain himself.
Sounds like typical wacky Police Academyfun, but Police Academy: Episode II deviates too much from the formula that made Episode I a hit. What makes the first film work is not only its underdog story, but also the bonding of these misfits. Hightower stands up for Hooks when she can't do it for herself, and the group overcomes the odds by depending on each other.
On the other hand, Police Academy 2 is the Steve Guttenberg show. Okay, there is a secondary plot in which Tackleberry falls in love with his partner, Sgt. Kirkland (Colleen Camp), but the Police Academy films are supposed to be ensemble comedies about quirky characters. Thankfully, Hooks and Jones get a token scene or two for their shtick. Unfortunately, poor Hightower only has about three lines. Even the goldfish-toting Commandant Eric Lassard, an essential ingredient in this cast, is absent for much of the film.
Instead, we suffer an onslaught of the least interesting character in the series, Sgt. Carey Mahoney. Watching this sequel means preparing yourself for scene after scene of Mahoney trading barbs and pranks with Mauser, getting called to crime scenes, counseling Tackleberry on his love life, and knowingly smirking into the camera. When it comes time to get serious about Zed's gang, Mahoney is the one to don a fake mustache and go undercover, while the rest of the recruits float in his stardom wake. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with this. Unfortunately, if "trying" actually was a felony like Mahoney suggests above, Steve Guttenberg would be innocent on all charges.
The only ones who do seem to be earning their pay are the new actors on board. Like the subsequent sequels, Police Academy 2 establishes several new characters. This is one area in which this film scores. Art Metrano is perfectly cast as the obsequious Lt. Mauser, for my money, rivaling Lt. Harris as the best villain of the series. Lance Kinsey's portrayal of the bumbling Sgt. Proctor is also top-notch, and uncannily reminiscent of Will Ferrell. However, the real standout is Bobcat Goldthwait, who steals the movie as the manic Zed. He's like the anti-Guttenberg, snorting and screaming, conspicuously chewing scenery, and obviously improvising with the other actors. Even if you don't like his act, you have to admit that he's putting forth a better effort than this picture deserves.
While this film is suspiciously light on both comedy and action, compared to the others, a few snickers are to be found. One scene, in which the recruits accidentally destroy a jewelry store while attempting to thwart a robbery, is the most memorable bit—if only because it seems to be a throwback to the first film. Others will enjoy Lt. Mauser getting his comeuppance several times over, most notably when Mahoney replaces his shampoo with plastic epoxy. As in the rest of the series, the jokes are probably a little broad to appeal to everyone's taste, but frankly, you could do much worse.
It's also interesting to note this film started another tradition in the Police Academy franchise. The first Police Academy film contained enough sexually themed gags to garner an R rating, but in each successive film, suggestive content was slowly weeded out. Before long, all that was left was a Saturday morning cartoon show, a line of action figures, and not coincidentally, the death of the series.
Being a budget release, the disc looks and sounds pretty much as I expected. The transfer is slightly grainy, and perhaps a little dark. The mono soundtrack is passable. Neither is great, but each is appropriate enough.
In line with the technical specs, the selection of extras on this disc is fairly modest. Besides the theatrical trailer, a six-minute "making of" featurette is all you get. Interviews with producer Paul Maslansky and several cast members are heavily padded with memorable scenes from the film. While it's worth watching to see Steve Guttenberg almost apologize that "there's not as much pressure on you" in sequels, it's pretty obvious that nobody has much to say about this film.
While not the most entertaining chapter in the saga, Police Academy 2 is notable for introducing some of its best characters. This alone is enough to warrant a purchase for Police Academy fans. Others who have bought the first film and are considering picking up one of the sequels might be advised to skip this installment and proceed directly to Police Academy 3: Back in Training.
Since Steve Guttenberg has already done his penance in the world of straight-to-video children's films, no punishment this Court can hand out would be meaningful. This case is dismissed.
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