In just under two weeks’ time I will be attending Comic Con Manchester 2019 – a themed convention organised by Monopoly Events. This year’s theme is ’80s and ’90s and includes a number of guests from film and television, including four stars from the Police Academy film series: Steve Guttenberg, Leslie Easterbrook, Marion Ramsey and Michael Winslow.
As a child of the ’80s, I grew up watching the Police Academy films and I’ve always had a little soft spot for the series. As such, these four guests are the main reason I’m attending Comic Con Manchester 2019.
Ahead of the con, I decided to revisit the film series to see if they have stood the test of time. It’s been quite a while since I watched all the movies – the ’90s in fact – so I’m interested to see how well/badly they’ve aged.
Watching one movie a day for seven days I plan to work my way through the series. I will keep a record of my journey and the conclusions I come to.
Here we go…
Police Academy (1984)
Initial observations: The humour aims for cheap laughs, but the gags are enjoyable enough. As I recall, the characters are clearly the key selling point here.
Secondary observations: Kim Cattrall. “Move it. Move it. Move it.” The Blue Oyster bar. Mahoney’s ‘One in the oven’ T-shirt. The prostitute. “Don’t move, dirtbag!”
There’s a lot of memorable moments in this movie.
Conclusion: Tackleberry, Mahoney, Jones, Hightower, Fackler, Hooks, Callahan, Harris, Commandant Lassard – the majority of the core characters are introduced in this first entry and that makes for a fairly fun watch. Police Academy is very dated (some of the terminology is unacceptable by today’s standards), but the oddball cops ensure the movie has enough charm to see it through.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Initial observations: No Callahan or Harris, but new faces arrive in the shape of Sweetchuck, Zed, Mauser and Proctor – all icons of the series.
Secondary observations: Epoxy resin shampoo. Mauser’s toupee. The Blue Oyster bar. “Don’t move, dirt bag!”
Conclusion: Police Academy 2 utilises the same formula as Police Academy (daft characters, lowbrow humour, catchphrases) and produces similar results. It’s clear the edges have been softened a touch for this sequel, but it’s still fun to watch.
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
Initial observations: Callahan is back, meaning almost all the core cast are in the same movie! It’s just a shame Harris is still absent.
Secondary observations: Zed reformed. Mauser’s eyebrows. The prostitute returns. The Blue Oyster bar. “Don’t move, dirt bag!”
Conclusion: The tone of the series continues to get lighter, Tackleberry remains the highlight, the plot is becoming inconsequential. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying these films – because I am.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
Initial observations: Harris is back, Mauser is nowhere to be seen, and Fackler is absent (for now).
Secondary observations: “Don’t you ever touch my balls without asking.” House. David Spade. Sharon Stone. Mrs Feldman. The Blue Oyster bar. Ninjas.
Hmm… this is the first entry in the series not to feature Hooks’ “dirtbag” catchphrase. This is also the final entry to include The Blue Oyster bar.
Conclusion: As with Police Academy 3, the plots are no longer important. The daft characters are still the main selling point.
And now onto Police Academy 5.
As a kid, this entry was my favourite. This means it’s either very good or very, very bad.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
Initial observations: Mahoney is gone, House has been pushed to the front, and a new lead arrives in the form of Nick Lassard.
Secondary observations: Golfballs. René Auberjonois. A Jaws parody – 13 years too late. “Out of my way, dirt bag!”
Conclusion: *Sigh* The novelty has worn off with this one. Maybe I watched it too much when I was a child, or maybe it’s just bad.
Yeah, it’s bad.
The Police Academy series has reached full cartoon territory with this film and there’s no turning back. The characters are still the big draw, but the series is clearly aiming for a younger demographic and for this entry it has become quite tedious.
Today’s entry is Police Academy 6. I distinctly remember the first time I watched this movie – it was on VHS and it was the same night I watched Batman ’89. It was one heck of a double-bill for a youngster!
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
Initial observations: Once again the series is aiming squarely for the PG market, but this time with a better understanding of what it is trying to achieve. I remember this entry being fun to watch and yep, it is still fun to watch.
Secondary observations: Fackler returns. “You’ll take the bus and like it now, mister!”
Conclusion: A big improvement on Police Academy 5 and (in my opinion) one of the stronger instalments in the series. Bringing Fackler back allows for some fun and for the first time since the original Police Academy there feels like an actual plot, with decent villains!
I’ve come to realise that the best way to enjoy these films is to just accept them for what they are and don’t expect too much.
OK, six films down, just one to go.
After a run of six films, all being released on an annual basis, the Police Academy movie series originally took a pause here for five years. However, for me, I’m only pausing until tomorrow when I pick things back up again for Mission to Moscow!
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Initial observations: Hooks has gone, along with Fackler, Hightower, Proctor and Nick Lassard. Oh dear.
Secondary observations: Ron Perlman. Christopher Lee. Claire Forlani.
Conclusion: Painful to watch and incredibly slow (even though it is only 83 minutes long), this seventh Police Academy movie is awful. The five year pause between City Under Siege and Mission to Moscow was long enough for the wheels to completely fall off this series, resulting in a mind numbing entry that is beyond boring.
Oh, and the sound editor/mixer should have been fired for creating what is arguably the most irritating dubbing and sound effects ever committed to screen.
So, after seven days of back-to-back Police Academy movies I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed revisiting this series. Sure, the jokes get recycled (a lot) and the humour is mild at best, but there is something quite appealing about this collection of films.
As stated above, it’s the oddball characters that make this series and it’s not difficult to see why Police Academy was eventually turned into a spin-off cartoon, as well as a live-action TV show. The strength of the series is in those characters, which is one of the reasons the seventh film struggled – many of the characters had gone and it was no longer the same.
Out of the seven films, I enjoyed five of them (1-4 + 6), was indifferent about one (5), and severely disliked the other (7). I’d say that’s not bad going really.
Do I think this series could ever be revived?
Yes – but it would have to be in the form of a reboot, with new goofballs to kick-start things. A number of the original actors have passed away since these films were made and I don’t think young audiences of today would be all that familiar with this series.
As for whether or not the Police Academy films will be revived, I honestly don’t know. It’s been talked about a few times, but there’s never been anything concrete.
Maybe I’ll find out more when the stars of Police Academy take to the main stage at Comic Con Manchester 2019. Either way, for now I’m fully prepped for the event – bring it on!