Series Link 05.20.10: Police Academy
Posted by Arnold Furious on 05.20.2010
One of the top R rated comedies of the 1980s and rushed PG sequels that followed it
Series Link #21: Police Academy
One of the top R rated comedies of the 1980s and rushed PG sequels that followed it
Frequently when reviewing movies I notice I'm missing sequels here and there from classic series. In line with one of my key film watching beliefs I'll be making a point of tidying up some of my sequel history. The belief in question being that as long as I enjoyed the original I'll watch any sequel made of it. I don't know where this belief came from but it's one that seems to work out for me quite frequently and there are many film series where I have enjoyed multiple sequels based on my love and respect for the initial instalment (Alien, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Rocky etc).
For this twenty first Series Link I thought I'd revisit a series I've thought about doing several times since Series Link started out. I know it gets knocked quite a lot for being dumb and is perhaps the dumbest series of the entire 1980s decade, which is saying something. Like many other series from the 1980s it is currently set to be remade. Much like Child's Play last time out. When it debuted in 1984 this film series changed the way that 80s comedies behaved. Before 1984 they were significantly sweeter. This series made the world a slightly cruder place. Released the same year as Beverly Hills Cop it was a huge success and paved the way for the 80s to feature crude and foul mouthed comedy. The weird thing being that after the success of the initial movie; films that followed in this series got progressively less and less edgy to appeal to a mass market and as a result were less and less successful. For Series Link #21 I bring to you…
Series Link #21
How many films?
How many films had I seen before doing this column?
All seven on release. I've seen the first film several times as well as a few of the better sequels.
1984-1994. 10 years. Although by the time the last three films were released the series had lost momentum and was no longer relevant. Not only that but series star Steve Guttenberg wasn't even interested in making them anymore. It also featured in the 1988 animated series spin-off not to mention a live action show in 1997.
Police Academy (1984)
The success of the original Police Academy is attributable to a number of factors. Firstly the premise was something that the everyday guy on the street could relate to. A bunch of guys in shitty jobs (parking cars, security guard, flower arranging) get the chance at a better life by joining the cops who'd now opened up the ranks to include less than perfect physical specimens. So fat guys like Leslie Barbara (Donovan Scott) and accident prone guys like Doug Fackler (Bruce Mahler) could line up alongside those more suited to police work. Secondly in Police Academy they created a lot of interesting characters. Many of them were caricatures but some that looked like caricatures actually ended up getting nicely fleshed out by the time the movie finished. Like Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith) who gains a shocking amount of depth towards the end of the film where he shows his sensitivity, loyalty and bravery. Thirdly Police Academy was a film that revelled in adult situations and was rated R. There's a lot of nudity in the film plus a scene where a prostitute is hired and ends up accidentally blowing Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) while he's giving a presentation on the Academy, which is probably the best scene in the film.
All of those factors would slowly disappear as the series progressed. The much loved characters from this film were joined by crazier characters as time progressed. They became less and less real and more and more wacky. Some of the better characters from this film were allowed to continue throughout the series. I'm thinking of Hightower, Lassard, Lt Harris (GW Bailey) and Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf). The latter being most people's favourite Police Academy character because of his love of firearms and extreme personality (although he didn't drop into caricature until the later films where they forgot he had a personality). It also helps Police Academy that the female lead isn't just some bimbo but rather Kim Cattrall. She was a very popular lead actress in the 1980s and I personally had quite the crush on her. I was only about 9 or 10 the first time I saw Police Academy and it was one of a number of Kim Cattrall movies I enjoyed. It also helped that in spite of the language, perhaps because of it (the language in Police Academy is very juvenile), the film appealed to the whole 80s family. It was the kind of movie you could watch with mom and dad. It just served to push the boundaries of what was acceptable in a family comedy with the occasional bawdy sex romp.
I just saw Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars and this scene is spoofed in that movie showing Police Academy did have widespread appeal
How different might this film, and series, had turned out if a different actor was playing Mahoney. I know Steve Guttenberg carried on to moderate success and used Police Academy as a stepping stone to stardom and even managed to appear in a better movie when he was in Cocoon BUT he's crap. Everyone knows he's crap. He does ok with the material he's given but Bruce Willis auditioned for Mahoney! He'd have been great. The role needs that laid back wiseass approach that he had in spades in the 80s. I can totally see him in the role. Tom Hanks was also considered and again I can totally see him doing it. Although it's probably for the best Guttenberg was selected as he showed up for two sequels the others probably wouldn't have touched. Some of the characters created for the first Police Academy didn't make the sequels. Kim Cattrall's character Karen Thompson; a rich kid with very little character development never made it beyond this film. Leslie Barbara, a character with some potential but unfortunately managed to stand up to his bullies before the film finished thus ending his arc, was gone after this film. As was George Martin (Andrew Rubin); a lothario who attracts the attention of Sgt Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook).
It's interesting to note that Jones (Michael Winslow) wasn't originally in the script but the producers saw him open for Count Basie and thought he was really funny. Which is probably why he feels so superfluous in the first movie. He's just Mahoney's buddy. There's no real storyline as to why he's there. Also Hooks (Marion Ramsey) is pretty much a caricature. She doesn't really have much in the way of development. She's just this meek little mouse who gets transformed by the need for aggression in the final act. Although I do appreciate the way she based her voice patterns on Michael Jackson.
Police Academy is a much better film than it has any right to be. The set up is basically the same as any ‘camp' comedy from the 80s and produced a string of spin of "Academy" movies. But Police Academy isn't that movie that we remember it to be. It's a cunning mixture of personality and funny situations. The film builds characters up and although it has too many characters there's still effort to try and get those characters over with the viewers. Even Hooks, who has precious little to do, gets a character arc. A basic one sure but it is there. For this we have to thank Hugh Wilson. Wilson wrote and directed Police Academy and from his work on WKRP and the Tony Randall Show understood the nature of storyline arcs and character building. He'd go on to work with Whoopi Goldberg on Burglar and have a minor revival in the 90s with First Wives Club. It surprises me that Wilson didn't have more success based on the Police Academy movie because without him it could have been a real mess. With him it made $78M and established a series that kept churning out inexpensive sequels for 10 years. Without Hugh Wilson's characters that just wouldn't have happened. At first look Police Academy is a cookie-cutter exercise but dig deeper and you'll see why it became a popular series. It's just a shame they didn't have the guts to stick to Wilson's original formula and retain the adult situations that pushed the envelope and gave the first film the R rating. Sequels would be toned down to get more kids in to see them.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
The first big job on the sequel to Police Academy was replacing Hugh Wilson who wasn't interested in following up his film with a rushed sequel. He was shooting Rustlers' Rhapsody and Police Academy star GW Bailey was involved on the shoot as well. Taking over behind the lens was veteran TV director Jerry Paris. Despite a long career in TV and having directed over 200 episodes of Happy Days it was his work on this and Police Academy 3 that Paris is best remembered for. Sadly he wasn't able to continue working in Hollywood on account of his death in 1986 just after PA3 had wrapped. Paris and his script, written by SNL's Barry Blaustein, made a few smart decisions. With GW Bailey unavailable they decided to take the film out of the Academy setting and show what happened to the raw recruits when they got into the line of real police work. For this they selected the most interesting of the first film's cast; Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg – series star), Jones (Michael Winslow – funny noises), Hightower (Bubba Smith – huge black guy), Hooks (Marion Ramsey - timid black girl), Fackler (Bruce Mahler - clumsy) and my favourite character from the first movie; Tackleberry (David Graf).
The six recruits are sent out to help beleaguered Precinct captain Pete Lassard (Howard Hesseman), the brother of the Police Academy's Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes). Hesseman refused to appear in subsequent sequels and said he regretted making this movie. The returning characters already have plenty of things they have to relate to the existing audience. We all know Hooks will eventually do something crazy and against her personality, we know Tackleberry will shoot stuff and we know Fackler will fall over something. Jones was underused in the first film. His late edition allowed him to be funny but not without a great deal of interaction with the other characters. Strangely enough the same is true of this film where all the ‘Jones' bits are separate from everything else. Although they've padded out his character somewhat by having him as an expert on karate. "Oh, not on broccoli".
It's the new characters that define PA2 though. Art Metrano joins the team as Lt Mauser; an unpleasant suck-up who's aim is to destroy Pete Lassard and his new recruits in order to take over the precinct. Mauser feels like a less interesting version of GW Bailey's character from the first film. He doesn't feel dangerous enough. However his role in the film is perfectly accompanied by that of Proctor (Lance Kinsey). Proctor is a well meaning idiot who just goes along with what Mauser tells him to do. His charm is in his stupidity and loyalty and it's nice to have a bad guy who's so incredibly thick and gullible. Proctor's character would survive another 4 sequels after this while Mauser's sole contribution would be PA3. I think that shows the level of popularity the character had. Mahoney's contribution to this picture is a bit odd. Instead of being paired up with a talented police officer to allow him to goof off he's paired with an unhygienic dog trainer called Vinnie (Peter Van Norden). This is Vinnie's only Police Academy movie, which should tell you how well his character went down. It seemed as if, Proctor aside, the new characters were somewhat of a failure. But they weren't because the true success came from the pairing of weakling merchant Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky) and punk gang leader Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait).
It was played up even more in future films but in this one they're polar opposites. Zed hates cops, hates the law, hates Ferris Wheels. He's a bad guy. But he became so popular with the Police Academy audience that he returned for the 3rd film as one of the cadets. Same goes for Sweetchuck; his loveable sidekick. Also the second film saw the arrival of Kathleen Kirkland (Colleen Camp) who became the target of Tackleberry's love even after he'd met her crazy family who like to punch each other ahead of dinner. Colleen didn't make the movie's poster however as she was replaced by a random blonde chick used to "sex up" the poster. I guess the movie needed a little sexing up after the reduction from the R rated opening film. There are tits in this movie, like the first one, but the profanity is hugely reduced. Like in the first film the biggest laugh comes from a dirty prank. But this time it's no hooker blowjob but rather Mauser having his hands glued to his head in the shower. Not quite so risqué.
The second film isn't anywhere near the first film but it's not a total failure. The introduction of new characters is hit and miss but Zed and Proctor would both become popular regulars. PA2 is a touch simplistic and misses some of the tougher comedy of the original. It has no major flaws but unlike the introduction opening to the first film in the first half hour of PA2 nothing much happens. It takes time to find its feet. And in a 90 minute film it doesn't have that luxury. Could have been and perhaps should have been funnier than this.
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
The original plan was to connect this film with PA4 and shoot both of them back to back in order to save time and get a couple of sequels out there as quickly as possible. But that plan went off the rails when director Jerry Paris became too ill to shoot both. He passed away shortly after the third film was completed. Gene Quintano wrote the script. He was a satirist and a fan of spoofs. He went on to write and direct National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1. The core stars from the previous 2 films returned. Mahoney, Tackleberry, Hightower, Jones, Hooks and Fackler. Also Zed, Sweetchuck, Mauser, Proctor, Callahan and Lassard were back. It was starting to get a touch crowded in the Police Academy universe. As characters were added it gave less time to everyone involved. PA3 could ideally have benefitted from trimming the fat. It did do that but lesser stars like Fackler were still there reduced to smaller roles.
The plot of PA3 saw Chief Hurst announce that one of the cities two police academies had to close. So he concocted a contest between the two. The former cadets return to help Lassard in his battle against rival Academy head; Mauser. Along with Mauser are Proctor from PA2 and Blanks & Copeland from PA1. A who's who of villains. Meanwhile Zed, the bad guy from PA2, connected so well with the audience that his character crossed over the blue line and joined up to Lassard's academy along with Sweetchuck and Japanese exchange cop Nogata (Brian Tochi). Colleen Camp doesn't return for this part but her onscreen brother Bud (Andrew Paris) is one of the new cadets. Also among the new recruits is Karen Adams (Shawn Weatherly). Shawn is better known for playing two Jill's on TV. Jill Starbuck on JJ Starbuck and Jill Riley on Baywatch. Given the Baywatch connection you can imagine what she looks like. If you guessed blonde with big tits you'd be right.
The conversion of the cadets to the teachers is a nice touch and returning to the Academy for a sequel is a good idea and helps to regain the atmosphere and vibe of the first film. Keeping the best characters they've created along the way is also a bonus. PA3 is the best of the sequels and works because of this combination they've got. The gags are good and the pacing is quick enough to paper over any weaknesses in the plot. When we head over to the other Academy to see Mauser at work its Proctor who steals the show. He was entertaining in PA2 but in PA3 he steals practically every scene he's in. Each of the returning cast gets a job to do while the new recruits are all passable. Hooks is the expert driver, Callahan on hand to hand combat, Hightower with his dog training and Jones the martial artist.
As I mentioned before writer Gene Quintano was a big fan of spoofs and includes the shower scene from Psycho replicated by Zed & the unfortunate Sweetchuck. Also Dirty Harry is referenced several times, which is probably not a surprise with Tackleberry, a Dirty Harry comedy clone, involved in proceedings. Gene also makes a point of referencing the first film from Fackler riding on the bonnet of the car to the hooker from PA to the Blue Oyster Club it's not only a sequel but a loving tribute the film that made the series happen. Quintano was also hired to write PA4 but that didn't work out quite so well.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
With Jerry Paris falling ill and eventually dying the series needed a new director and it was Jim Drake who stepped up to fill Jerry's shoes. Drake was the best that was available at short notice. He'd spent his career working in TV and would only get one more opportunity to direct a cinematic release, probably as a favour for stepping in here, and that was 1989's atrocious Speed Zone starring John Candy. One of my least favourite films. As it happens I don't care much for PA4 either.
An interesting addition to the cast for PA4 was Sharon Stone. Although there's really no connection between her success after this and her performance in this movie. They just needed a blonde chick to play opposite Mahoney. Presumably at Steve Guttenberg's request. He hadn't gotten much bumper since the first movie. Although most changes into PA4 were bad there are two positives. 1. The return of GW Bailey. I had missed Harris. They retain Proctor to be his suck-up instead of Mauser's. 2. Tab Thacker; or Thomas Conklin or House as he was better known. The arrival of House gave Hightower something to do. He became his mentor and father figure. Also in this movie is David Spade; 2 years before his debut on SNL. It shows PA4 was at least trying. By the end of it the experience would be trying for the viewer.
PA4 has almost no common theme running through it. There's not the same love of parody that PA3 had, there isn't a good vs evil motif with good fighting evil throughout and only overcoming it at the end or anything useful for the viewer. It comes off as a series of skits. The "Citizens on Patrol" aspect very rarely has any impact on the plot. We just skip about from one character to another with each getting to do something funny. There's a bunch of pranks played on Harris and Proctor so they never get on top of the heroes. So we never can get a happy resolution because there's rarely anything wrong. The horror of Harris taking over the Academy with Lassard in London at a convention doesn't make any difference. He seems to have no grip over the other cast members like he did in PA1 when he kicked Hightower out of the Academy.
Also the relationships in PA4 are way oversimplified and just used for gags. There's a cute moment with Zed and Laura (Corinne Bohrer) where they slowly build feelings for each other but then they turn it into a gag where Zed says he wants to puke after they do a spinning thing. There's no genuine emotions on display. No genuine anything. The series was unravelling before the viewers eyes. The strong characters were still there but they were being used for jokes and nothing more. Like the director and writer were saying; we've done all the hard work now we can just kick back and watch 90 minutes of hijinx. Well, these characters aren't THAT funny.
Everything action based seems tacked on including the skateboarding sequence (with Tony Hawk who wasn't allowed to double David Spade because he was too tall) and the balloon chase at the end. There are glaring continuity errors and obvious stunt doubles throughout. Watching all these in sequence allows me to notice problems with the script. One error is that Proctor doesn't seem to recognise the Blue Oyster bar despite having been there before in the 3rd film and knowing where it was in the 2nd film. Things like that can really grind at you. Were the filmmakers that lazy this time around? Short version; it felt like a sketch show featuring totally unrelated skits. Steve Guttenberg left, as did Bobcat Goldthwait and the series was doomed.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
With the insistence of the studio being to "strike while the iron is hot" they continued to churn out PA movies with PA5 being the 5th in as many years. Steve Guttenberg had clearly had enough of it. Guttenberg was offered the lead and turned it down also intrusting his agent to reject any and all Police Academy offers he might receive in the future. Had enough eh? I understand. He opted instead to make Three Men and a Baby, which is perhaps the pinnacle of his success along with hits during his PA run like Cocoon and Short Circuit. He was even the highlight of Amazon Women on the Moon. He also had a minor success with High Spirits in 1988. Then people generally got sick of the sight of him and he was done. Happens all the time. He managed to get a Three Men sequel in 1990 and that was his last big movie. He was replaced by Matt McCoy who wasn't a bad choice but the fans of the series noticed that without Mahoney they didn't really have a strong focal point. Hell, Bubba Smith is the first named STAR of this movie! Bubba Smith!
Alan Myerson took over behind the camera. He's better known for his work in TV. Larry Sanders, Boy Meets World and that sort of thing. It takes him some time to get the plot going. The idea is that Lassard (George Gaynes) has been named policeman of the decade so the crew head off to Florida to celebrate. It's abundantly clear that the plot has to be driven by somebody other than Mahoney and it takes more than 30 minutes for Mahoney-sub Nick to appear. Even then the film seems devoid of ideas. Harris & Proctor provide some of the films best moments as a comedy double team. Proctor seemingly more stupid than ever before, Harris even more of a dickhead than usual. The rest of the cast are reduced to clichés and everyone seems bored with their characters. It's no wonder they selected Gaynes to be the focal point of the whole movie. He's the only one who seems to care outside of the Proctor/Harris double act. The additional new characters come in the form of the bad guys; a trio of pratfalling incompetents. They're lead by Rene Auberjonois so at least fans of DS9 have something to amuse them.
The film attempts a few parodies with Tackleberry threatening to shoot Jaws at one point but nothing really clicks. Worse still is the inclusion of Janet Jones as McCoy's love interest. Matt McCoy isn't a great actor but he's passable in limited doses. Janet Jones is terrible. She really hasn't done much since PA5 and there's good reason for that. The trimming of the fat also doesn't help matters. The team is reduced to Hightower, Hooks, Jones, House, Tackleberry and Callahan. Hooks was very much a one trick pony long before this and she'd passed her sell by date here. The same old, same old. Same with Hightower who rarely does anything worthwhile and Jones' performance is laboured. Let's face it; by the time they pushed out their 5th movie in as many years the characters weren't fresh anymore. PA5 is the worst of the series…to this point. And I added "to this point" for a perfectly good reason. That being PA7. It has moments but not many of them.
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
And so the series rumbled on. Now at 6 movies in as many years. They even hired a director whose name sounded rude; Peter Bonerz. This is another TV director who enjoyed long runs on popular shows in particular Murphy Brown. He also worked on Friends and Home Improvement. So he's not totally incompetent. They got most of the cast back including Bruce Mahler as Fackler who returned after missing the previous two movies. The only major addition to the cast was Kenneth Mars who played the forgetful Major and *SPOILERS* the bad guy as well. Although you'd have to be pretty dumb not to notice the eventual swerve.
Much like the previous two films the general premise is unimportant as the film only exists as an excuse to trot out the characters and give them a fun scene each. The PA formula used on PA4 and the films that followed it has to be the laziest formula ever invented. Each scene barely advances the plot and more often than not just acts as a skit for each Police Academy star. Like Hooks losing her temper or Tackleberry shooting something or Callahan having big tits or Proctor being an idiot or the returning Fackler being clumsy. The movie sees the guys looking to take down the Wilson Heights Gang, which has remained one step ahead of the cops based on insider knowledge. So everyone thinks there's a leak inside the police department, which of course *SPOILERS* is coming from the Major who Harris can't help but suck up to.
Just to assure that during the course of this column I manage to link just about everything together one of the bad guys in this movie is played by Gerrit Graham who also appeared in Child's Play 2 as the foster father. Much like previous PA movies it suffers from a lack of strong bad guys. We've had goofy bad guys ever since Zed in PA2. At least he was entertaining with it but the string of failures since show a lack of creativity. PA6 does at least have the "Mastermind" aspect although watching it back the whole set up is a lot goofier than I remember. Despite having Lassard hands on, as well as Harris, they insist on bringing back the ineffectual Matt McCoy as Nick Lassard. Nothing against McCoy but he just isn't funny and Steve Guttenberg was. The returning Fackler is used frequently as if they wanted to make the most of his return rather than having good ideas and his role fitting them.
In short PA6 is a really stupid movie and continues the 4-6 trend of mediocrity and repetitiveness. It's a pity because PA3 is pretty good and had they added elements of satire and parody, intelligently, they could have made a better series. During PA6 Lassard is framed as the leak in the department even though the robberies began before he was even involved in the case so he couldn't possibly be the leak. This level of nonsensical plotting is an example of how bad the Police Academy movies got. If you think that's bad check out Jones' stand-up routine at the comedy club during a power cut. He gets some great feedback on that mic. During a power cut. Oops. Perhaps the worst piece of filmmaking in PA6 is when Fackler is trying to swat a fly while directing traffic. You can see the strings. It shouldn't have made it into the movie. On the upside there's a great chase scene to end the movie with the producers opting to go for a more traditional car chase over the more obscure chases of the past. There's also a great in-joke where Proctor narrowly misses "Gene and Roger's Fruit Stand" after Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel agreed that in Police Academy movies someone always drove a car through a fruit stand. Sly gag.
My biggest irritation with PA6 is that despite having a cast that had previous appeared in five movies together they don't interact well with each other. You get little bits like Harris & Proctor that work and they've clearly worked on their double act routine. But other than that it's disappointing how little the characters interact. And the truly frustrating thing is that the actors CLEARLY had a fondness for each other. You only need to see the chemistry between Marion Ramsey and Bubba Smith to know they must like each other in real life. But the lines don't match their chemistry. It's a real crime to have actual real-life chemistry and not use it.
PA6 is pretty much the end of the line. It isn't very good but at least it has funny moments and a decent ending. This is the last movie for Hightower, Hooks and, sadly, Proctor. PA6 tanked at the box office and continued a downward trend that started getting serious around PA4. Quite frankly the series would have been better served as a trilogy. Of course with hindsight it's easy to say that. I imagine everyone was quite excited about the prospect of making PA4 after the success of PA3. Unfortunately that movie was the beginning of the end. It would be 5 years before PA7 emerged and by then times had changed. No one wanted to see that movie. It was released the same year as the game changing Pulp Fiction.
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Five years after the series had effectively died with PA6 it was relaunched with a streamlined cast and a new director. Alan Metter was previously best known for his work with Rodney Dangerfield on Back to School but also did a great little movie with Richard Pryor called Moving. No one saw it. A theme that would continue throughout his directing career (people not seeing his movies, rather than them being good). PA7 had the rather dubious honour of having the worst box office in the history of the franchise at $126k. Which is practically nothing. The disaster is one of the reasons why they've never been able to make an 8th reunion movie. Although when you think about it the timing was all wrong for an 80s comedy to make a comeback. Mid-90s was a time when no one was interested in the 80s at all. The whole decade was somewhat frowned upon. It wasn't until later that people started getting nostalgic. A common occurrence. In the mid 90s all the Police Academy movies were lumped together as crap with Mike Myers getting a sneaky dig at them in his Wayne's World movie.
The first thing you'll notice when watching PA7 is that they seem to have forgotten to add in the jokes. Maybe they picked up a joke-free version of the script by mistake and by the time someone noticed it was too late to correct it. We also have strange sound effects added for "amusement" and yet you're never quite sure if the people in the room can hear them because of Jones' history of making funny noises. Also we have the addition of the totally unfunny Charlie Schlatter. He went on to make a career out of voice-over work. Which is probably for the best because he had no future as a movie star. Schlatter plays Cadet Connors who's added to the crew because otherwise there would be no central character for people to relate to. Matt McCoy isn't back for this instalment and we're also missing Bubba Smith and Marion Ramsey. Not to mention Lance Kinsey. The streamlined cast is reduced to Lassard, Harris, Callahan, Tackleberry and Jones. The latter is rendered totally unfunny by the director's insistence on adding sound effects. Nice work. Tackleberry is effectively neutered by constantly being used as the straight man. Harris without Proctor seems dull. Their double act had been great but with the funny man gone Harris has no one to play off and they try to reinvent him as an expert in surveillance. George Gaynes gets top billing as Lassard and deserves it as he's the funniest thing about the movie, not that there are any jokes, and the one trying the hardest to save it. And he's taken out of the movie early on so they can put him in a stupid subplot where he gets in the wrong car at the airport and ends up hanging around with a Russian family. Hilarity does not ensue.
This movie is a skeleton is several actor's closets. Christopher Lee was at a career low point in the 90s and it wasn't until being cast in Lord of the Rings that his star returned to the top of the Hollywood echelons. So he'd do pretty much anything in 1994 hence his appearance here. Ron Perlman is in this movie and while he isn't funny at least he spent some time getting the Russian accent down. His character is boring and pointless and he does try hard to make it more than it appears on paper; on paper it's really thin. And then there's Claire Forlani. She had a few hits after this starting with Mallrats (not a hit but a popular movie on DVD). She's not a great actress anyway. I've always found her to be very wooden and bland. She's appropriately cast as an emotionless Russian translator. At least I think she was supposed to be emotionless. With Claire Forlani it is hard to tell.
Mission to Moscow has a reputation as one of the worst comedy films ever made. It's hard to argue with the general consensus of opinion. The film is practically devoid of jokes and ruins the ones it does have with some extremely bad choices in post production. I can only assume the blame for these decisions must rest at the feet of director Alan Metter as he surely would have had his name removed from the credits if he felt it wasn't acceptable. Quite frankly Mission to Moscow is a disaster and it deserves its poor reputation. It also features the most obvious use of stunt doubles in the history of film, which is saying something and there are some genuine contenders for that during the PA series. Just awful.
Police Academy ***1/2
Police Academy 2 **1/2
Police Academy 3 ***
Police Academy 4 *
Police Academy 5 *
Police Academy 6 *1/2
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow BOO!
Police Academy $78M
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment $55M
Police Academy 3: Back in Training $42M
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol $24M
Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach $19M
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege $11M
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow $126k
The 411 –
It'd be easy to tar all the Police Academy movies with the same brush as most folks do. Generalising and saying all the Police Academy movies suck is totally unfair on the earlier entries. The first and third films are genuinely entertaining and funny. Had they been able to capitalise on the writing for the other sequels they'd have been laughing! And so would we. The R rated comedy of the first feature would fly much better if extended across the series and future directors had to deal with the studios desire to get the movies out quickly and to the biggest audience possible. Not making PA2 an R rated movie was probably a mistake but the great character work done in 1 and 2 (and 3) helps to set up the lazy direction of the later films where they took what worked best and just let the characters do little skits. The lazy formula of PA4 onwards is what gives the series a bad reputation coupled with the horrendous 7th movie. Recommended viewing; 1-3.