Police Academy (1984)

“Four of you have already quit — and that’s just the beginning.”

When a mayor announces her city will be accepting police candidates of all types, a group of misfits — including a troublemaker (Steve Guttenberg), a one-man noise-making machine (Michael Winslow), an attractive socialite (Kim Cattral), a former florist (Bubba Smith), and a squeaky-voiced woman (Marion Ramsey) — attend a training academy run by a crusty commandant (George Gaynes) and an irritable lieutenant (G.W. Bailey) determined to make the recruits’ lives miserable.


Peary writes that back in 1984 (shortly before the publication of GFTFF), this “undistinguished, unimaginative comedy became a surprise commercial blockbuster, forcing highbrow critics to lament about the nature of today’s movie audience” — surely a complaint that resonates equally well in 2019. Peary adds that this is “yet another film in the Animal House and Stripes tradition, with a group of incorrigible, klutzy misfits entering a conservative institution” and ultimately deciding “they really want to become policemen after all”. He notes that “the reason for the picture’s popularity has been a mystery, because it hasn’t much sexual content or inspired lunacy” — but he asserts that he thinks “it’s partly because it’s the one film in which the institution doesn’t really alter the rebellious characters it eventually welcomes into its ranks; it doesn’t contend that if someone trains to be a policeman he’ll become a better person, or that disciplined people are the types of citizens we want.” Still, he laments that this remains a “ridiculously tame film” with “some laughs, but the humor isn’t allowed to build toward a funny climax”. Peary’s complaints all ring true; this erstwhile box-office favorite (with numerous sequels to its name) doesn’t offer much of interest to viewers other than those who recall it fondly from their youth.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Michael Winslow’s amusing “sound machine”

Must See?
No; this one is only for cult ’80s movie lovers or those curious to see what the fuss was all about.


3 Responses to “Police Academy (1984)”

  1. In agreement with the conclusion that the film’s considerable success is a mystery – though it is and yet it isn’t. More than enough stupid films have ended up runaway hits – so we all know that, if one of them manages to strike a chord at a certain level, it’s going to attract fans of dumb humor.

    I saw this not that long after its release. Not in a theater – as I recall, I saw it on tv when I was living in Japan and watched it only so I could mark it off as “seen” on the Peary checklist.

    The synopsis given here caused the experience to rush back to me. It’s not an experience I would ever want to repeat. In other words, not must-see but it has its built-in fans.

  2. A must see film due to its great popular success, for spawning a hugely successful franchise and for being a film still loved by the public, discussed and revived.

    I think it’s only merely good, just. It’s generally funny and irreverent and the only must see entry in the series.

  3. This was a guilty pleasure for many—9-year old kids like me especially. It had a large VHS rental following in its heyday in the mid-to-late ‘80s. While it was clearly inspired by the raucous ragtag band of outcasts found in Animal House, Meatballs and Stripes, its over-the-top slapstick has more in common with the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. I think attempting to follow in this kind of company is probably the reason for its wide appeal—there were and arguably still are a lot of fans of this type of comedy (with few other worthy Hollywood releases to choose from in recent decades). Sure it’s low-brow, but it does have an infectiously lighthearted and juvenile charm. I think Danny Peary might be overthinking its success a little. This type of movie only requires a wafer-thin structure. It’s an excuse to devise pranks and sight-gags. I still enjoy most of it. I think it’s certainly worth watching once.

    Screenwriter Neal Israel co-penned this screenplay, and while I don’t find this one all that compelling, he also co-wrote two other ‘band of misfits’ outings that Peary didn’t cover in Guide: Bachelor Party and Real Genius. Those two movies I found far more interesting, and, like Police Academy, hold up well to multiple viewings: Bachelor Party in its reckless abandon, and Real Genius essentially takes Revenge of the Nerds to CalTech.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.