Thursday, July 06, 2017

Police Academy (1984)

I remember someone talking about the TV show Frasier.  The show was spun off from Cheers and featured a psychiatrist as its lead character.  Being a comedy, it took certain liberties.  In the interview, someone admitted that an actual psychiatrist wouldn’t do many of the things that Frasier had done.  So many transgressions had been committed that he would have lost his license long ago.  I tend to think that Police Academy is similar.  I doubt that real police academies look anything like what’s shown in the film.

The movie starts off with a title card stating that the mayor of an unspecified jurisdiction has dropped all requirements for entry into the police academy, thus allowing anyone and everyone to apply.  This exists only to allow for a group of random wannabes to make into the main narrative of the film.

For instance, Carey Mahoney is facing jail time as his father’s friend is growing tired of keeping him out of trouble.  The choice that Mahoney is given is to enter the police academy or face jail time.  He agrees if he can bring with him someone he met in the police station.  That someone is Larvell Jones, who is played by Michael Winslow.  He was known for making all manner of sound effects with his voice.  There’s also a trigger-happy security guard named Tackleberry and a very meek woman named Laverne Hooks.

Each recruit wants to be there with the possible exception of Mahoney, who is hoping to do what it takes to get kicked out.  The police chief has other plans.  He wants the police force kept predominantly white and male.  The chief gives orders to Commandant Lassard to get rid of any undesirables by making them quit.  This puts Mahoney in the difficult position of not having an easy way out.

There aren’t many surprises.  As you might imagine, Mahoney finds his calling.  Many of his attempts to weasel his way out are played mostly for laughs.  (He sends a fellow recruit into the commandant’s house thinking that owning up to it will do the trick.)  You also know that Hooks will find her voice at some point.  None of the recruits really belong there.  Height and fitness requirements exist for a reason.  You are expected to perform certain functions which require certain attributes.

Each character seems to serve as a way of setting up some joke.  The plot seems to serve as a method of bringing them together.  On that note, Police Academy was the first time I remember taking exception with an ironic name.  They took the tallest character and named him Hightower.  One scene has Mahoney teaching him to drive in the smallest car they could find.  It occurred to me one day that Hightower is a common-enough name.  It’s not inconceivable that someone, somewhere is both tall and named Hightower.

It’s one of those movies you’ll get the most enjoyment the first time.  I don’t know that you’ll like it as much the second time around.  I’d recommend renting or streaming it rather than buying it. 

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