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Case Number 04204

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Police Academy: 20th Anniversary Special Edition

Warner Bros. // 1984 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 6th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

The new police recruits. Call them slobs. Call them jerks. Call them gross. Just don't call them when you're in trouble

Opening Statement

Before there was Miami Beach, before citizens went on patrol, before Moscow went into the toilet, there was this—the first, the original, the best. And now here it lands, receiving a 20th anniversary treatment, offering timeless insight into the absolute career freefall of its ensemble cast: Police Academy.

Facts of the Case

Mahoney and the gang in their maiden voyage (that would eventually lead to a port-of-call of unfunny mediocrity). Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) is a troublemaker, always embroiled in some scam that lands him an overnight stay in the county lock-up. His most recent malfeasance wins him a lose-lose choice: serve some time or get a taste of the other side, namely police work. Deterred from the idea of prison time—and the inevitable anal adventures that accompany such a sentence—Mahoney becomes one of a unique crop of cadets bound for the academy.

Under orders from the mayor, the police academy must open its doors to all types of dingbats and outcasts and, hence, the comedy troupe that (for the most part) marches on through six sequels and even a short-lived cartoon series. So join me for a quick jog down memory lane. Won't you?
• Mahoney: The token wise-cracking, anti-establishment protagonist/spitfire, who fires off one-liners and digs voyeurism. Will he ultimately transform into the thing he once despised, perhaps even saving the day? What the $%#* do you think?
• Thompson (Kim Cattrall): The privileged daughter of a wealthy family who looks to contribute something to society. The object of Mahoney's lust, the character vanishes after this movie, as Cattrall went on to fashion a legitimate career in film.
• Jones (Michael Winslow): "The guy who makes funny sounds with his mouth." Winslow rode this gimmick to hell and back (catch him in Spaceballs doing the same schtick). See: dead horse, beating.
• Hightower (Bubba Smith): The enforcer. Mess with Hightower, and he'll be washing your blood out of his monstrous mustache for weeks.
• Hooks (Marion Ramsey): A soft-spoken woman of petite stature. She also sports a gimmick with an identical payoff each movie.
• Tackleberry (David Graf): One of the more popular characters. He's a gun-toting violence junkie looking to bring his particular breed of rage to the police force.
• Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes): Senile old fart in charge of the police academy.
• Sgt. Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook): Tough-as-fake-nails instructor. She's known primarily by her two prominent, uh, qualititties, er qualities.
• Lt. Harris (G.W. Bailey): Token hard-ass and all-around curmudgeon. He's the foil to Mahoney's rabble-rouser.

There you have it, a sampling of the zany crew that helped give birth to a franchise of endless girth.

Their maiden voyage establishes the formula that the subsequent movies follow:
(A) introduction to goofy new characters,
(B) conflict between jerk commanding officer or rival cops,
(C) a pit-stop at the Blue Oyster, and
(D) an out-of-nowhere dramatic turn during which the clowns can sport some heroism.

The Evidence

Ah, Police Academy, another genre-spawning movie: Wacky Misanthropes + Bikini-clad Blondes + ________ School = Stunning Mediocrity. Still the best, this first entry into the PA series is one of those highly rewatchable movies. If I'm cruising through the channels and I happen upon the movie on TV, well, sir, I just get drawn in. "Even though I've seen this 57 times," I think, "I'll just watch it until this part coming up…oh and then there's that part, and that part." Before I know it, I've spent two hours on the couch.

We're not talking high art here. But Police Academy has a certain kind of authentic charm, and the fact that it's peppered with some funny stuff doesn't hurt either. The movie also benefits from the early-'80s mindset that comedies should include multiple shots of bare breasts. Who can forget the gratuitous bonfire scene?

Plus, you get many of the gags that would eventually be tiredly rehashed in sequel after sequel but are fresh and original here. Winslow's voice effects, Tackleberry's volatility, Lassard's gleeful obliviousness, Callahan's gargantuan bosom, not to mention our first visit to the Blue Oyster.

Oh, and then there's Steve Guttenberg.

For all the quips he may bear as someone who dramatically went from Hollywood mainstay to one of the premier residents of Island of Washed Up Celebrities, the guy is great in this movie. He gets some decent lines, but he's also managed to hone the smart-ass act to a science. Stevie G. at his prime, ladies and gents.

This brings me to the special features. Though the disc isn't loaded with much, the ones here are great. First, the commentary, which features Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook, G.W. Bailey, director Hugh Wilson, and producer Paul Maslanksy. This was easily one of the best commentaries I've heard, not because it offers valuable insight into the filmmaking process (though everyone is forthcoming about the details), but because of the obvious fun everyone is having. The track reminded me of the commentary for The Goonies, another one of my favorites, with a bunch of cast members reuniting, ruminating, cracking wise, and truly enjoying themselves. Winslow, particularly, was hilarious, as he was not reluctant at all to poke fun at himself. "This is Michael Winslow, one of the stars in Police Academy to infinity," he says. Everyone is just as animated and just as funny.

Nothing is off limits, including their careers. Hearing Winslow openly plea on the track for work or Cattrall's successful career being specifically noted, was a welcome, self-deprecating treat compared to the hours of commentary by too-damn-big-for-their-britches cast and crew members from other movies.

Besides the theatrical trailer, the only other extra is a half-hour feature, with cast members and filmmakers interviewed. This, too, is great, as, again, it is obvious how much fun these people had making the movie and how much they enjoyed each other. If you're a Police Academy nostalgia buff, you'll be in paradise.

Warner did a fine job with the transfer, as the picture is clear and crisp. You won't have to strain to catch a glimpse of the shower scene (you gutter-minds out there). The mono treatment is typical, but handles itself fairly well.

Closing Statement

Fans of the films—or at least this film—will get their money's worth with the disc. It's not loaded silly with extras, but you won't be disappointed with what's there.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Yes, you all may be working the drive-thru window at Arby's these days, but you will live forever as Mahoney, Jones, Hooks, Hightower, and company!

Court adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 85
Extras: 95
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary with Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook, G.W. Bailey, Director Hugh Wilson, and Producer Paul Maslanksy
• "Behind Academy Doors: Secret Files Revealed" Documentary
• Trailer


• IMDb

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Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.