After Steve Guttenberg floated away from the series in a hot air balloon they still made three more POLICE ACADEMYs without him. I think it would’ve been cool if every once in a while they cut to him still in the balloon looking down and smiling, like “Oh, you rascals, you sure know how to prank Captain Harris!” But I guess he was above that. Or maybe just Sharon Stone wouldn’t do it.I know this doesn’t sound believable, but there’s a noticeable drop-off in quality between POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL (1987) and POLICE ACADEMY 5: ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH (1988). It’s not just that Steve Guttenberg (Mahoney), Bobcat Goldthwait (Zed) and Tim Kazurinsky (Sweetchuck) all left the series. It just seems like it gave up aspirations of being a lazy, broad comedy and decided to just be a movie for little boys about people falling down, getting their hands slammed in drawers or having their pants fall down.
The opening is yet another example of how the characters of Captain Harris and Captain Mauser are interchangeable. Part 3 opened with Mauser and Proctor sneaking around at night for a Deepthroat type meeting in a parking garage. This one recalls that scene but with Harris and Proctor breaking into an office to find secret files. I’m not sure what they’re actually looking for, but the paydirt they hit is that Commandant Lassard is past the mandatory retirement age. (You’d think they could’ve found this out legitimately).
So at the annual Police Academy graduation ceremony they announce, to Lassard’s shock and dismay, that he’s retiring (this probly should’ve been discussed privately first). But also that he’s being honored with the Police Officer of the Decade award at the Police Chiefs convention in Miami, which seems to indicate that he has done some sort of police work before, something that he has never been shown doing in the previous 4 movies and does not seem like he’s been remotely capable of for many years, judging by his extreme senility.
So the remaining characters – Jones, Hightower, Hooks, Callahan, Tackleberry and part 4 newcomer House – go to Miami with Lassard. Harris and Proctor follow, hoping if they kiss enough ass Harris will become the new Commandant. Lassard’s nephew (Matt McCoy from ABOMINABLE), also a cop, also goes. I’m not sure if he’s the son of Howard Hesseman from part 2. He’s definitely supposed to fill the Mahoney hole, because he uses the same pattern of obnoxiously hitting on a woman (pretending to be “poolside masseur” for the hotel) and then somehow charming her.
Tackleberry’s wife is never mentioned, and he’s not wearing a wedding ring. Hmmm.
My question of whether or not Jones ever has times in his day where he doesn’t do sound effects seems to be answered definitively here, because in most of his scenes he doesn’t do them. He does pathetically redo the same dubbed kung fu voice joke from parts 2, 3 and 4, and makes an elevator sound to confuse a bad guy. I guess the most noteworthy sound effects joke is when he’s making it seem like Harris keeps setting off the metal detector at the airport. Harris eventually figures out that it’s Jones making the sounds, and he yells at him. I believe this is the first time one of the bad guys has been seen recognizing Jones’s sound effect-making powers.
There’s also a part where Harris walks by and for some reason Jones makes a horse noise. At first I thought he was teasing him about the time his head got stuck in a horse’s ass, but that was Mauser, wasn’t it?
I forgot to mention in my review of the original POLICE ACADEMY that there’s a scene where Mahoney hires a hooker who hides under a podium and gives Lassard a blowjob while he’s making a speech. The weirdest thing about the scene is that Mahoney is under the podium too. Just crouched down there watching the old man’s dick get sucked close up. That crazy Mahoney! And now he’s in a balloon.
Anyway, it’s funny that this series started out raunchy like that, but by part 5 here it’s rated PG and doesn’t seem intended to ever be watched by adults. Let’s see, it says here in my notes that somebody at some point says, “You squirted me with your donut, moron!” I don’t remember the context, but that’s the kind of humor we’re dealing with here. Also an ongoing thing where Lassard drops golf balls and people step on them and fall down. In the tradition of POLICE STORY 2 there’ s a farting on the elevator scene. That kind of stuff.
I guess the one running-joke-variation that deserves some credit is Tackleberry’s traditional excessive-force-is-hilarious scene, because this time instead of an innocent civilian he points his gun at a shark. And the shark turns around and leaves.
But that’s not enough to save the movie. In my opinion ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH is definitely the worst POLICE ACADEMY movie that takes place on American soil.
I know this is not the boldest statement I’ve made, but POLICE ACADEMY 6: CITY UNDER SIEGE (1989) is by far the best of the post-Mahoney trilogy. It’s the only one that seems like they were trying. In fact, on the behind-the-scenes featurette director Peter Bonerz (get it? Peter) gets a little pretentious talking about how he worked in homages to Alfred Hitchcock’s SABOTEUR, John Frankenheimer’s THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and Jacques Tati’s MON ONCLE, among other things. The best part of the interview is how he describes the final scene where helium balloons attached to Captain Harris’s chair cause him to fly away: “It’s rather poetic for a POLICE ACADEMY film to see a guy, Icarus-like, floating off into Heaven.”
To me CITY UNDER SIEGE seems more influenced by NAKED GUN than anything, but seeing as how it only came out a couple months later that’s not really possible. I guess it was the Greek mythology.
In this one Captain Harris and Proctor have transferred to a real police department just to get away from Lassard. So Harris isn’t exactly happy when his failure to stop a crimewave in his precinct causes the mayor (Kenneth Mars – I guess the “lady Mayor” is out of office by now) to bring in Lassard and his 7-man team of specialists to help out. The team is Jones, Tackleberry, Hightower, Hooks, Callahan, his nephew Nick Lassard (he moved here from Miami I guess?) and Fackler, the clumsy nerd from parts 1-3 but not 4 or 5. To be honest I’m not sure I noticed he was gone, but they give him a big entrance and have him say “It’s good to be back,” which only works on the meta-level since it’s clear in the story that none of these guys have worked in this precinct before.
Another, uh, beloved (?) character who returns is the crazy old lady who they allowed to run around with guns and shoot at people in CITIZENS ON PATROL. She’s only in one scene, though, a really dumb one where Jones embarrasses a guy at a party by somehow making him and everyone else in the room think his shoes are squeaking. The other major sound effects scene is one where he just does a Jimi Hendrix impression on stage at a comedy club, supposedly to calm the citizens during a blackout. So it’s just like when James Brown’s performance prevented rioting in Boston after the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Of course there’s also a part where Jones puts on his kung fu headband and pretends his voice is badly dubbed. This is the last time, so for the record he uses that joke in parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Five movies in a row! Way to stick it to translation. Dubbing’ll never know what hit it.
Good news: Tackleberry does still have a family. I’m not sure if he’s still married, but he has a son, who proudly uses a billy club and knows police codes.
Fackler’s scenes are an example of why this is better than part 5, but also not good. The entire joke of his character is that he’s constantly bumping into people and objects and causing mayhem without realizing it. Not really funny. But at least they’re elaborately choreographed scenes, like when he’s coming into a conference room, you see a scream out in the hall and see a painter falling off a ladder with a bucket over his head, and after the door is closed a red streak of paint goes across the window. You can tell that effort and planning went into it, which was not an impression part 5 gave.
Another example is Callahan’s entrance, a series of jokes about dudes checking her out at the gym. She sits down and does thigh adductions. In the foreground a dude is bench pressing, and his head blocks our view of her crotch (see? planning). But the spotter turns and watches her, not noticing that the lifter is having a hard time and starting to choke. It’s all visual and not rushed through, good timing. I know it’s a crotch joke but compared to alot of what this series offers it’s downright sophisticated.
I gotta confess another part I thought was funny, when we first meet the Mayor and you sort of had to be there but the way he’s making a big speech and can’t remember the word “fools” and tries to describe the concept. That actually made me laugh. (I could’ve done without repeating the same sort of joke a couple more times in the same scene though.)
This installment is notable for a couple reasons. For one thing, I’m pretty sure it’s the first time they’ve done any actual detective work. Usually they just happen to be at a place where a riot or ninja attack is happening. In this one Nick Lassard actually figures out the real estate scam behind the crimewave and who’s responsible.
And it’s the first time that Harris has been seen as incompetent by higher ups. Usually it’s the underdog cadets/former-cadets that know he’s an asshole and they play pranks on him. Some of the other high ranking officials notice that he’s an asskisser and everything but seem to see him as a serious professional. This one opens with non-comedic members of the new force Harris is on completely bewildered by how the gang robbed a fur coat store right behind him while he was staking out a jewelry store across the street.
By the way, at this point it has nothing to do with a Police Academy at all, it’s just about police. (The part 5 poster called them “The Cadets,” which wasn’t really accurate. This one updates them to “The Grads.”)
Obviously it’s most important for being the last one – the official petering out of a proud franchise. The first six installments each came out a year apart, SAW style, but this one was 5 years after part 6. It’s after the Cold War, so they team up with Russians. It’s late enough that the plot involves a Nintendo Gameboy type video game that’s gonna control the world. Think about it – six-sevenths of this series came out in the ’80s. This one came out about 2 months before PULP FICTION. It’s a different world.
I mean, they’ve got a scene where Tackleberry is complaining that choking and billy clubbing people is called “excessive force” now. This is 3 years after the Rodney King beating. I’m not sure if it’s as cute as it was in the ’80s.
I’m trying to understand that phenomenon, by the way. Tackleberry and Sledge Hammer, and probly other characters I’m forgetting, are sort of parodies of Dirty Harry and the gun obsession of ’80s action movies. But it doesn’t really seem like it’s a criticism exactly. It seems like the love of guns and grenades and shit is supposed to be an adorable quirk. The whole joke is that he loves shooting things and blowing things up. And I think it seemed funny at the time. I can’t remember.
As far as guest stars this has a more impressive cast than previous ones (but only in retrospect). Ron Perlman, a year before CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, plays the Russian mobster/brainwashing video game creator villain. Christopher Lee plays the Russian Commandant who contacts Lassard for help stopping Ron Perlman. Claire Forlani plays a Russian translator/love interest.
But as far as the regular POLICE ACADEMY cast members the reunion is sparsely attended. Lassard, Jones, Tackleberry, Callahan and Captain Harris return. But it’s the only one without Hightower, the only one without Hooks. Fackler doesn’t return. Not even Eric Lassard, the replacement for Mahoney, returns. Instead he’s replaced with Charlie Schlatter (TV’s Ferris Bueller) as a younger version of the same type of smarmy handsome charmer character. He hacks into the computer to get assigned to the titleistical mission, and none of the seasoned professionals think it’s weird that a student is on their team. He’s mostly in the movie to have an overly serious love subplot.
I know it’s weird to be lamenting the loss of cast members from a series I think is crappy anyway, but it just feels wrong without Hightower and Hooks. To me, surprisingly, the biggest loss is Proctor. He’s been the antagonist’s dumb sidekick since part 2 and all the sudden we got Harris walking around talking to himself. It helped me realize how good Lance Kinsey is as Proctor. Maybe it’s the Stockholm Syndrome of watching these 7 movies in a row, but by the end I realized I actually thought he was funny. He’s always so eager to please his asshole boss but also completely clueless about what’s going on. He doesn’t seem to hate the Police Academicians, he just doesn’t know better than to follow orders. He’s like an excited puppy.
So let me flashback right now to salute the moment in part 5 when Harris gets mad and intentionally slams Proctor’s hand in a cabinet, and Proctor says, “Don’t worry, I’m all right!” Hats off, Sergeant Proctor. Without him, there is no one to comment supportively when Harris is spying through a periscope and a dog pees in it.
One sad thing I noticed: the music is still by Robert Folk, who scored all these and of course did that catchy-as-all-hell theme song, but this is the first one where he ended up using keyboards in place of an orchestra. It seems very DTV, but apparently this actually did get a theatrical release, it just wasn’t as wide as the other ones because they knew nobody fuckin wanted to watch this shit.
Anyway, what I’ve learned about this series is that any time they leave The City for some reason (such as an Assignment or a Mission) it’s always sucky. This is by far the worst POLICE ACADEMY. I’m starting to think they don’t teach you much at that school.
* * *
POLICE ACADEMY 5: ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH
directed by Alan Myerson (TV shows spanning from The Love Boat in ’76 to Judging Amy in ’05)
written by Stephen J. Curwick (Growing Pains, Who’s The Boss, Family Ties)
POLICE ACADEMY 6: CITY UNDER SIEGE
directed by Peter Bonerz (ALF, Friends, Shit My Dad Says)
written by Stephen J. Curwick again
POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW
directed by Alan Metter (BACK TO SCHOOL, BILLBOARD DAD, GROWING PAINS: THE MOVIE)
written by Randolph Davis (GOING UNDER starring Bill Pullman) and Michele S. Chodos (one episode of Matlock)
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.