Seeing as I’ve been told to rest a leg muscle injury, I didn’t have too much to do yesterday beyond sitting about and watching TV.
At the moment I don’t have any games I’m playing through, nor do I have any TV shows after finishing The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I looked through Amazon Prime to see if there were any movies I could while away the hours with.
And in amongst a selection of rather bland modern films and dodgy looking old ones (and no, I’m not being critical of old films in general, but I doubt vintage Dick Tracy films are going to be worth my while) I found one of the gems of my childhood…
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.
Now I’ve written a lot in the past about how we had a much more limited choice of TV and films to watch back in the 1980s and 90s in a time before On-Demand TV and cheap DVDs, and that any videos we did own we’d probably watch over and over again.
Well I had this movie on video, so I’ve probably seen it a couple of dozen times over the years.
But I haven’t seen it for a long, long time.
So does it hold its appeal after all these years, or does the memory cheat? Certainly modern-day reviewers don’t like too kindly upon it, as it manages to get a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.7 on imdb.
It’s surely not that bad though?
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Thoughts
If I was to watch this for the first time today, I’d look at Police Academy 4 and I’d probably rip it to shreds in a review.
Let’s be blunt about it, it has problems from all sides…
- Dodgy Acting: I can honestly say there’s not a single actor in this who you would want to cast in a film that you’d hope to be taken seriously. Most of the cast are there because of gimmicks rather than acting standards, e.g. Jones (He can make funny noises), Hightower (He’s big), House (He’s big and fat), Zed (I genuinely don’t know what the fuck is up with Bobcat Goldthwaite), Hooks (She has a squeaky voice), and Sweetchuck (He’s tiny).
- An Incredibly Bad Structure: Police Academy 4 has a start, it has a finish and then the middle 70 minutes are just like a series of random sketches unrelated to an ongoing narrative. So it’ll go from a scene where Zed and Sweetchuck get into a fight in a gym, to Captain Harris & Proctor accidentally going into a gay bar, to Mahoney, Zed and Hightower getting a construction worker team to put a portaloo with Proctor in it into the middle of a football stadium during a big match, to Mahoney flirting with a journalist, to Mahoney supergluing a microphone to Captain Harris’s mouth, to Zed and Sweetchuck having yet another fight in a gym. It doesn’t link and it doesn’t make sense.
- Characters Popping Up Randomly: In a similar vein, there’s no real direction of purpose to the characters. You might think that it’s about the skateboarding kids being rehabilitated under the tutelage of Mahoney and his team, or that it’s about Mahoney – or even Zed – falling in love, but these story threads are picked up and dropped without any consideration. Similarly, the likes of Hightower don’t even appear in the final act, even though he’s positioned as the second lead.
- It’s Sooooo Dated: Watched today, Police Academy 4 just seems unbelievably dated, from the hairstyles to the clothes to the music. And having a long montage dedicated to skateboarding? Awful. These days if I see an adult skateboarding, I just feel the urge to scream “It’s not 1987 anymore you muppet” at them.
- Lack of Moral Centre: Ok, maybe I’m being harsh here, but in the same way the real villain of Ferris Buellar’s Day Off is Ferris himself for being a destructive truant, I don’t really get why Captain Harris is considered the villain here. He’s a police officer trying to do his job in amongst a group of cocky kids, incompetents and ne-er-do-wells who routinely abuse their powers as officers of the law.
But in spite of all of that, Police Academy 4 is funny and it’s enjoyable.
I watched it with a broad smile on my face, remembering all the weird characters and finding positives from all the bad parts I’ve just described. What makes it technically bad is what makes it charming, and whether it’s low brow or not, I just find stuff like Captain Harris calling Proctor a “Dickhead” amusing.
I also have to laugh at the way the some of the stuff was deemed acceptable for a 4-year-old me in terms of film classification. I went to see this at the cinema and my brother went to see it four times. All
throughout, there’s swearing, sexual references, violence and a scene where Lesley Easterbrook (Callahan) jumps bra-less into a pool and emerges with a t-shirt so wet you can see every aspect of her torso and then invites men in to ‘save her’. Could you imagine a movie with a U or PG certification doing that these days? Not a chance.
To be fair to it as well, some of the stunts throughout the film are actually very impressive and come across as the sort of thing that actors wouldn’t do anymore because using CGI would seem a lot safer. And my favourite character – Captain Harris (G.W. Bailey) – even does his own stunts, so credit to him for that.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Final Thoughts
Ultimately, Police Academy 4 is what it is. It’s crap, but it’s enjoyable crap viewed with a fondness that can only be attributed to a selection of 1980s movies that people my age watched over and over again.
I heartily recommend it, but appreciate that if you didn’t see it in the 80s, you’d probably think I’m insane for doing so.
Calls to Action
b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here
c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’