Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blast From the Past - Police Academy (1984)

With so many awesome movies coming out in 1984 (Terminator, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, The Last Starfighter, Nightmare on Elm Street, Splash, The Natural, Romancing the Stone, etc), it's not uncommon to forget some of the other movies that came out that year.  I'm pretty sure, just from the sheer number of movies that came out that year, that if you were an actor, actress, key grip, sound technician, or special effects guy, you had a job back then.  Me, I was 14 that year, just starting my freshman year in High school, and coming off an awesome final year of grammar school.  I didn't have a job back then, not only because I didn't get my first job until 18, but because I didn't work in the film industry.  Come to think of it, I don't have a job now, but that's not got nothing to do with what I'm talking about, so why are we discussing it?  Exactly.

Police Academy (1984) is mostly about Cadet Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), a bit of a screw-up who is given a choice.  He can either accept a jail term, or apply to the Police Academy.  Due to recent changes in the strict requirements one has to meet to become a Police Officer, the Academy is now accepting any and all recruits, and Mahoney quickly realizes he's not the only oddball in his class of cadets.  Along with him are Cadet Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall, long before her Sex and the City fame, looking delicious as a brunette), Cadet Moses Hightower (the late Bubba Smith), Cadet Tackleberry (the late David Graf), and Cadet Larvell Jones (comedian Michael Winslow).  Instructing at the Academy are Lt. Harris (G.W. Bailey, recently of 'The Closer' and 'Major Crimes') and Sgt. Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), and the academy is run by Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes, who is amazingly still alive, according to his IMDB profile, at the age of 97).  Mahoney, due to his agreement in avoiding jail time, cannot quit the Academy.  However, he is allowed to be kicked out, and so immediately goes about his usual business of being a screw-up.  After annoying Lt. Harris (which isn't hard to do), Mahoney develops an affection for Thompson (Kim Catrall), and decides he really does want to become a Police Officer.  Which, unfortunately for him, Lt. Harris has sworn Mahoney would be a policeman only over his dead body!

No, this doesn't really qualify as a romantic comedy, and I'm not reversing my position against reviewing those sorts of movies that I just avowed in my last post.  This is, however, definitely a comedy.  I don't have anything against comedies, and I don't know why anyone else would.  If you want to focus on the laughs in this movie, focus on Michael Winslow, and (the late) David Graf, who play Larvell Jones and Tackleberry.  Pretty much every scene they are in, everything they are doing, either in front of the camera or in the background, is done for comedic effect.  Winslow was a comedian before (and probably after) this movie, and I've seen him do stand-up a few times.  All through this movie, he's making sound effects with his mouth, to hilarious effect.  David Graf plays his comedic role more seriously, and much like every actor in Airplane (1980), his serious approach to comedy works perfectly for laughs.  There's a little bit of romance between Mahoney and Thompson, so those characters aren't really comedic.  I think Mahoney's pranks are kind of juvenile, which makes sense for Guttenberg's character, but he's not there to supply the comedy.  Even George Gaynes provides more laughs, and you should also keep an eye on him in most of his scenes, so as not to miss the little things that you might get a giggle out of.

Overall, this movie is funny, and should be watched for the comedy, but there's also a decent plot and moderately good acting.  Pretty much everyone in the movie is a veteran actor, either back then, or now.  Every Cadet in the class has his or her moment in the spotlight, and I couldn't really pick out a favorite, but I think the most understated is Cadet Fackler, played by Bruce Mahler.  Somehow, just by being himself, Fackler manages to not only start a city-wide riot, but blends in with the crowd so effortlessly that in one scene, one of the rioters screams something about going off to kill some cops, and runs right past Fackler, who has changed out of his riot gear and slipped on a plaid sports jacket he was admiring in the window earlier.  In fact, I'm not sure if Fackler is part of the looters or the police force at that point, because he's checking out refrigerators in the background during one of the riot scenes!  Too funny.

Aside from the decent acting, excellent comedic bits, and some minor action, there's even a little nudity.  Which, since I saw this on Comedy Central today, was blurred out.  This movie, having been filmed back in the 80's, is not politically correct, and doesn't try to be.  George Gaynes even pokes fun at dotty old folks, playing an absent-minded Commandant who parks his golf cart in the bushes.  This movie did spawn 6 sequels, so it must have made some sort of money at the box office.  Enjoy watching it (if you can find it), then watch it again to catch the funny parts you missed.  Then watch the 6 sequels, which bring back many of the major characters (except for Kim Cattrall), and go more in-depth with their characters.

Honorable mention today goes to the Giallo films on the El Rey Network.  Slasher-type flicks with some bloody gore and a hint of mystery, the Giallo flicks are new to me.  I suppose I might have seen them before, since the ones El Rey is showing were made variously between 1972 and 1987, but I don't recall watching them.  Still, there's some horror, and some nudity, so I can't argue with that one-two combo.  El Rey is playing The Black Cat, Deathdream and Opera today, and will probably play them again at some point.  El Rey plays things over quite a bit, and even shows nudity, so either catch them today or see if you can find them in the lineup later this month.

In other news, it's damn cold here, and I wish it was spring.  That is all.  Until next weekend.

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