Police Academy (1984)

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.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Misfits
  • Police

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 thoughts on “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.

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