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Police Academy 1-7 - The Complete Collection - Blu-ray Review

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Police Academy 1-7 Complete Collection - Blu-ray Review

The 80s were certainly the era for sequels galore and drew a road map for how Hollywood would produce movies into the future. The franchises spawned, by and large, in that era still exist today. One of the only comedic franchises that proved in its early entries to be a formidable box office competitor was the Police Academy series. Unfortunately, it’s also something of a precedent in how Hollywood will milk the cow until it’s dry.

POLICE ACADEMY

The story goes that one day while on the set of The Right Stuff, a local police academy sent some new recruits to act as crowd control. Producer Paul Maslansky saw for the first time a class full of ethnically and physically diverse misfits training to be police officers, and thought it might make for a good comedy.

Director Hugh Wilson assembled a cast that included Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, footballer Bubba Smith, David Graf, Marion Ramsey, Kim Cattrall, George Gaynes, G.W. Bailey and many more, and infused their respective talents into a comedic narrative that borrowed heavily from the British Carry On series, and, believe or not, the Looney Tunes shorts of the 40s and 50s.

The first movie tells the story of Mahoney (Guttenberg) and an eclectic bunch of social misfits, who make up the most unpredictable and surprising class to ever enter the Academy. Their nemesis is the acidic Lieutenant Harris (Baily), who tortures them throughout training and seeks to wash them all out of the course. When the absent minded Commandant Lassard (Gaynes) sends the recruits accidently into a city riot, the cadets get to show, once and for all, that they belong in the uniform.

The humour is predominantly slapstick, situational comedy, but the first film’s writing is by far the best of the series. There are some less than appealing stereotypes, including The Blue Oyster Bar, that would have a difficult time in these times, but there are also some clever spins of showing racism as idiotic and what wins out most of all is the film’s underdog narrative.

Police Academy as a film is unfairly lumped with the unending slew of inferior sequels. There is actually a story in this film, the characters are well drawn and relatable, and the comedy is organic to the story and effortlessly performed. This is a beautiful combination of an ensemble cast and their material, and it kicked some serious ass at the box office in 1984, to the tune of 80 million dollars, and deservedly so.

With that kind of haul off a 4.5 million dollar budget, you can bet your ass Warner’s moved quickly to get another one off the ground.

POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT

This first of so, so, so many sequels, is actually a fairly worthy follow up. Returning most of the original cast for their first adventures as actual police officers, this one introduces franchise main stays like Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait), Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinksy), dumbass Proctor (Lance Kinsey), and new nemesis Lt./Cpt. Mauser (Art Metrano).

Commandant Lassard’s brother is in dire-straights. His precinct is the worst in the city and his job is on the chopping block if he doesn’t turn things around in 30 days. Captain Lassard receives Mahoney and company to infuse some fresh meat on the streets and clean them up from the antics of Zed and the Skullians, a gang of local pests. Unfortunately for Lassard, Lt. Mauser (Metrano) has designs on his job, and will do anything to undermine the new recruits’ efforts.

There are already early signs that some of the main stays are going to just rely on their usual shtick to get them through. Having said that, the jokes haven’t yet worn thin and the concept of transplanting them into the sitting allows for a narrative that is not just a rehash of the original.

Metrano’s Mauser is a worthy antagonist to follow on from Bailey’s Harris, and his pairing with Kinsey’s retarded Sgt. Proctor give some of the film’s funniest interplay. Guttenberg has perfected his Bugs Bunny persona and effectively ties the film’s characters together through his easy-going straight man, Mahoney. Of particular note to this reviewer is Mahoney’s partner, Vinnie Schtulman, a slob of unparalleled filth. Graf’s Tackleberry falls in love, another amusing highlight. Goldthwait’s Zed won the crowd over with his unique voice and anger management issues, and Sweetchuck quickly became a fan favourite.

Again, box office was impressive, but a 25% drop from the first. Director Jerry Paris had done a good enough job to return for the next one…

POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINING

Laziness and/or a lack of bravery to push into new territory present itself almost immediately in this next entry. Instead of following the new recruits into their careers, we jump ahead some unexplained length of time to where they are now sergeants and called back to Lassard’s academy to help him. Lassard and Mauser have competing academies, and due to budget cuts, only one of them will continue past the next intake of recruits. A new cluster of photocopied recruits, including Zed and Sweetchuck, are enlisted under Mahoney and his gang to show that Lassard’s academy should be the victor.

As much as the entire series is maligned, the first couple did a fairly decent job of organically connecting the antics of the players into an acceptable, if not believable narrative. That ends with 3. This one is a series of disjointed gags, more than a cohesive story. They do set up the film’s problem and bring it home in the end, but the character’s old shtick and the very unimaginative new recruits, do little to help it.

It still has the effective antagonists in Mauser, Proctor, and returning from the first film, Blanks and Copeland. But its’ appalling stereotype humour, one the least enjoyable parts of the series, finds new heights of cringe-worthy and crosses the line into racist in this reviewer’s opinion with the character of Nogata. It’s embarrassing, some of the depths this film will sink to for a cheap laugh.

For every element one might criticise, 3 is hardly the worst entry, but it is certainly the touchstone for the bread starting to mould, so to speak. The jokes are rehashes, by and large, the characters are becoming less relatable and more cartoonish, the plot is paper thin by this stage, and the execution of these films as a whole is quickly reaching predictable and uninteresting.

It’s with this one, I implore you to stop. There’s enough here to get to the end credits, but you have to swallow a whole bunch of crap with it.

POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL

Mahoney’s last ride! Sharon Stone before she found A-list status uncrossing her legs! The return of Captain Thaddeus Harris! These are about the only things of interest in this entry.

Commandant Lassard, now a paper thin representation of his out to lunch character from the original, somehow has the respect of government and is charged with showing the international community a new program wherein private citizens are engaged on a volunteer basis to perform police duties. Yeah. Of course, Captain Harris, now written as a combination Mauser/Harris mutation (it’s not the same man we met in the original), wants to see this program fail. It’s up to Mahoney, Jones, etc., etc. to save the day.

This one is just plain stupid. It’s an unrelatable, outlandish cartoon, with insipidly lazy writing, and uninspired performances from a cast long since bored with their job. The production values have gone up, with a finale including bi-planes and air balloons, but again, following the less than stellar example of 3, this one becomes a series of disjointed jokes mashed together in some semblance of a story. It is so bad, choked with so many inane characters, that there isn’t even clear explanations how half of them get to the end game of this one.

Zed and Sweetchuck would follow Mahoney’s lead in appearing for the last time and quitting while they were behind. For the die-hard fans only.

POLICE ACADEMY 5: ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH

Officially, Guttenberg was set to return, and must secretly be thanking his lucky stars that scheduling conflicts with Three Men and a Baby prevented it. This one takes all the laziness of the last two entries, and infuses it will a whole warehouse full of stupid.

Harris has found out through breaking and entering that Lassard is one year past his mandatory retirement age. His brilliant plan is to pull the rug from under Lassard and supplant him as commandant at a policeman of the year award to be held in Miami Beach. Of course, Lassard’s bag is switched with a jewel thief’s, and Hightower and company, along with Lassard’s nephew Nick (Matt McCoy’s Mahoney-light), have to save the day.

You know those vomit inducing kid’s comedy shows they run on Saturday mornings? Those sugary-sweet, on the nose pieces of shit that seem to think young means retarded? Well Police Academy 5 could rival them for idiotic, ram down your throat, gags that just defy belief. There is no attempt anymore for these characters to be human beings. There just moronic cut outs designed to deliver a moron’s idea of a funny bit.

Again, some of the set pieces speak to a decent budget, but the bulk of the film looks as cheap as its jokes. Truly a painful hour and a half out of your life.

POLICE ACADEMY 6: CITY UNDER SIEGE

Just painful. This is the last of the series to involve Hightower, Hooks, Fackler, and Proctor. Even relative newcomer McCoy packs his Mahoney-light suit and runs after this crap.

Harris is on hunt for a robbery gang called the Wilsons (maybe the writer was a Beach Boys fan?). He’s now well established, after 3 shit films, as a bumbling, egomaniac, and so of course messes it up. Enter Lassard and his extremely bored group of officers to discover the identity of the Wilson gang, their Blofeld-rip off mastermind boss, and bring them to justice.

This one reminded me of a Scooby-Doo episode, only written worse, with dull characters, and shitty production value. Budget was definitely cut on this one. Some of the actors just look embarrassed to still be there. And so they should be. I can’t think of a single minute of this rubbish that is worth your time.

POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW

They actually made another one after a five year break, and the world spoke: enough is enough! A US box office take of under 200,000 dollars. This film has Christopher Lee, Ron Perlman, Charlie Schlatter, when he was a bit of a heartthrob, and even Claire Forlani in an early role. Yep, it’s that bad!

Lassard and a much smaller cast are sent to Russia to take down a criminal mastermind who is unleashing computer games that brainwash people and will help him take over the world! I’d like to say there’s more to it than that, but there isn’t.

If there is film to hold up for a franchise that has long outstayed its welcome, it is Mission to Moscow. It is rife with stereotype humour, stupid writing that high calibre actors cannot make work, and a production that is no longer trying. It’s as if at some point Maslanksy just signed on the dotted line, relied on his memories of previous successful entries, and just though another one would magically replicate that success. This is abysmal filmmaking; it has no redeeming value and should never have been made.

The one good thing this film did: killed the franchise! It ended here, and, for twenty peaceful years, no anaemic sequel has followed. Small mercies when charged to watch all seven, but I’ll take it.

THE FUTURE

For about the last 6 years there have varying attempts in Hollywood to revive the franchise, most notably with Steve Guttenberg at the helm. Bubba Smith, Tab Tacker, and David Graf have all departed this earth, and there have been conflicting presentations in regard to what a new movie might be, and who it might include.

Since we are in the era where they remake, or reboot, everything we enjoyed in the 1980s may I proffer a fervent wish? Learn from the past, try and find something relatable in the framework, give us character, whether old or new, that make sense to us as well as make us laugh. Avoid ugly stereotypes and never rely on what worked last time. Push yourselves. Don’t bask in a glory LONG dead.

Police Academy Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: various
Language
: English
Subtitles:
English, Spanish, French
Format
: Import, Blu-ray, Widescreen
Discs: 7 50GB Blu-ray Discs
Region Encoding: B/2

All seven films have benefitted from the upgrade to blu ray. I can’t see much evidence of restoration, but even just the native 1080p resolution gives new life to colours, contrast, black levels, and detail.

Sound is a surprisingly robust DTS-HD Mono track. I think the films could have benefitted from a 5.1 remix, especially with all the action sequences, but it doesn’t jar without that immersive presence.

Special features are all SD and ported over from the DVD box set.

The art on the UK box set is as lazy an uninteresting as most of the movies. When you have an artist like Drew Struzan do all the theatrical posters for your series, including the crappy ones, it’s criminal not to use them!      

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