The new police recruits. Call them slobs. Call them jerks. Call them gross. Just don't call them when you're in trouble
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?
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
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.
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.
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!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Audio Commentary with Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook, G.W. Bailey, Director Hugh Wilson, and Producer Paul Maslanksy
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