Bad cops

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A film review of ‘Police Academy’

By JP, Columnist


Police comedies are something of a staple in Hollywood, and it owes a lot of its template to 1984’s Police Academy, a comedy with some promising scenes that is overall quite mediocre due to choppy execution.

The film is set in an unnamed American city and follows several cadets participating in the police training academy due to the elimination of previous requirements. An early scene shows the horrified reaction of the male leadership at the police academy, upset at having their old boys club stirred up by egalitarian legislation from a new female mayor.

The film then introduces the cohort of aspiring police recruits, and it manages to balance this wide cast of characters reasonably well. The silent, intimidating giant, the suave womanizer, the troublemaker trying to get expelled, the zealous fanatics: All of these characters find some time in the spotlight, and they each offer the audience some humorous moments. For instance, the suave womanizer dupes the two eager fanatics into getting military crewcuts at the academy barbershop. This joke only becomes apparent at the punchline.

By contrast, the troublemaker character plays tricks on his superiors in attempts at getting expelled from the academy. One notable example is him planting brown shoe polish on the police lieutenant’s loudspeaker. The lieutenant then unwittingly sports a brown ring mustache, much to the amusement of the other characters in the film and the viewer.

However, despite the even pacing of the humour, the film’s transitioning and editing is not smooth. Due to the number of characters and the variety of humour, scenes are often very short, and those that are longer are interrupted by other ongoing scenes, involving other characters and other locations. This makes for a disjointed viewing experience that requires a concerted suspension of disbelief.

Among the stronger scenes is a panning shot through windows showing what the characters spend their evening doing. We see the fitness fanatic police lieutenant exercising in her room, and the womanizer visiting his women, having snuck into the women’s quarters disguised. This scene also sets up how the womanizer and the female police lieutenant’s lives will intertwine later in the film. Another highlight is when the two fanatic tough guys get tricked into going to a gay bar, twice. Again, these highlight the variety in the film.

The film unfortunately ends with a nonsensical third act, wherein the police trainees are thrown into a riot situation that devolves into chaos with little comedic value and even less realism. Everything wraps up in a cheesy, easily expected way.

Police Academy uses the idea of a disrupted patriarchal institution for comedic effect. Balancing a wide cast of characters and a variety of gags, sex jokes, and other humour, the film comes together as a mediocre 1980s comedy.