Police Academy (1984)

Police Academy (1984)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Hugh Wilson
  • Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, G.W. Bailey, Bubba Smith


New rules enforced by the Lady Mayoress mean that sex, weight, height and intelligence need no longer be a factor for joining the Police Force. This opens the floodgates for all and sundry to enter the Police Academy, much to the chagrin of the instructors. Not everyone is there through choice, though. Social misfit Mahoney has been forced to sign up as the only alternative to a jail sentence and it doesn’t take long before he falls foul of the boorish Lieutenant Harris. But before long, Mahoney realises that he is enjoying being a police cadet and decides he wants to stay… while Harris decides he wants Mahoney out!

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  • Numerous comedies have been made involving a group of misfits coming together under one roof for a common reason. This specific plot has been used in countless comedies and for countless genres. It is by far from the greatest movie made but the one that comes to mind that was quite popular during the 1980s was Hal Needham’s The Cannonball Run (1981); a ragtag group of zany car drivers set out on the biggest race of their lives to reach the finish line. A few years later, this movie would be released and its plot isn’t a stranger to what was previously mentioned; an ordinary group of schmoes from the city join the police academy after it becomes legal for anyone to join for any reason. If they pass, they are officially apart of the police force. Simple as that, and as bare bones as it is, the movie gets by just fine for the most part. The only difference between the two movies is that one is in an actual race of who will win, while the other is a race of who will graduate.

    Written by Neal Isreal, Pat Proft and Hugh Wilson (who also directed) have put together a decent script with a number of positives and only a couple of negatives that clearly needed to be changed. The biggest issue with its script is that it’s not a whole story. Since there are numerous characters, there are just several subthreads that run parallel to each other. This also means some characters will have better developed backstories than others. This is usually the sacrifices that are made for bigger ensemble casts. Unfortunately with that come a number of cliches that have been seen in other comedies. Some of which most filmgoers would expect because of how predictable the typecasting is. Yet, this is forgivable because all the main actors who have the majority of screen time are all likable in their roles. This is due to their distinguished personalities.

    The big three characters belong to Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), a labeled troublemaker but only for the wrong reasons, Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall) as Mahoney’s love interest, and Capt. Harris (G.W. Bailey) who strongly loathes Mahoney and wants to remove any other rejects. Bailey continues to be funny in his roles. Every character that he has been cast for remains comical in their own way with his clumsy facial expressions. Then there’s gentle giant Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith), the shy Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey), sound effects master Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow), the innocent dough boy Leslie Barbara (Donovan Scott), the tough and attractive Capt. Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), the old forgetful Commander Lassard (George Gaynes), hispanic man George Martin (Andrew Rubin), the gun-totting crazy man Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf) and a couple others.

    With all of these personalities on screen it is hard not to find at least one thing to exploit from each character when it comes to comedy. For the majority of the time the comedy works efficiently. It’s not falling off your seat hilarious but there are several moments that will create some good laughs. A lot of the gags and slapstick are stupid and goofy but they work because of how ridiculously quick the situations get. However, there are some jokes that are a bit crude. Humping and butt jokes are bit immature even if the tone is to be goofy. For its time, yeah maybe it was funny but now, those kinds of gags are just ehh. One of the bigger surprises is when there’s a racial slur thrown out in the spotlight. Umm,…ok, since when did one of these antagonists become filled with that much hate? Thankfully, it is resolved (somewhat). Come on, there’s no reason for that. Keep it classy.

    Michael D. Margulies was the director of photography for this feature. Although most of his work was shooting for TV movies, it seems as though he handled it well. Margulies gets a lot of the surrounding police campus and the city scenes don’t look boring either. They’re not beauty shots but they do work. The music was composed by Robert Folk who would be better known for scoring music to the Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995). Although Folk’s work isn’t easy to physically find other than a couple areas, he at least makes it catchy and easy to listen to. The main theme for the franchise has a memorable motif involving flutes and snare drum to emphasize the military aspect of the police academy. The rest of the tracks have more jazz themed tunes, which isn’t the usual way of producing a film score but it works nonetheless.

    Its large cast of comedic talents are clever in their own ways even for a largely thin plot. However, some jokes are bit silly and ill-advised even for its goofy tone. These flaws are thankfully made up with music that is unique and memorable and focused cinematography.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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