To some, the Police Academy movies are the nadir of 1980s film-making. To others, the Police Academy movies are the nadir of 1980s film-making…but with excellent boob jokes. Whatever your opinion, Mahoney and co are 30 years old this year, the seven-film franchise of screwball antics having made an impression – for better or worse – on a whole generation of kids. But what are the key ingredients that make up the complex brew that is a Police Academy movie? David Brown investigates…
1) Callahan sits on someone’s face Usually the characters in Police Academy movies have just one trait (Hightower: strength, Harris: butthead, Tackleberry: gun nut) – but Callahan is blessed with two: strength and big breasts. Needless to say all the guys are impressed when she demonstrates her self-defence skills by crushing the assailant with her thighs. See also her see-through-wet-T-shirt-swimming-life-saving class for further details.
2) Captain Harris gets stuck up a horse’s backside No movie would be complete without the squad’s double-dealing superior getting his comeuppance. Mauser had his eyebrows ripped off and his hands superglued to his hair, while Harris’s under-arm deodorant was swapped for Mace. But nothing beats the seminal moment when tyrannical Thaddeus H takes a leap from a motorbike and lands in a horse’s rear end.
3) Tackleberry shoots something with a big gun Ammo freak Tack gets carried away at least once per film, the ultimate moment coming in Police Academy 2 when he coerces a reluctant schoolboy out of his car by firing tear gas through the window. Unfortunately, the joke jumped the shark in Police Academy 5 when Tackleberry quite literally threatened a shark with his firearm.
4) Jones does his kung-fu dubbing voice Who needs guns and handcuffs when you have one-man sound machine Larvelle Jones pretending to be in a badly dubbed martial arts movie? It’s a sure way to wrong foot any bad guy. Failing that, he can pretend to be a defective robot or a space-invaders arcade game. Genius.
5) Some random women strip off In the earlier 15-rated Police Academy movies, there’d always be some sub-Porky’s perving by the shower rooms or at a beachside party. It was a tradition that came to an end when film-makers realised that their target audience were nine-year-olds, hence the later nudity-free PG instalments. Didn’t stop the latent homophobia though…
6) Some straight guys visit a gay bar In a nuanced and multi-layered depiction of gay culture, unsuspecting officers are routinely tricked into visiting The Blue Oyster Bar and made to dance the tango with taciturn bikers to El Bimbo by Bimbo Jet. Enlightened times.
7) Mahoney gets the hots for a future Hollywood A-lister Steve “the Goot” Guttenberg may have turned down Ghostbusters and spurned the chance to star in Big, but there is method in the man’s madness. For where else would he have been able to cop off (geddit?) with the likes of Kim Cattrall and Sharon Stone before they hit the big time? The lucky so and so. No wonder Captain Harris continually calls Mahoney a “pissant” (whatever that means).
8) A comedy hooker causes chaos Commandant Lassard delivers a speech. A prostitute hides underneath in the podium before pulling down Lassard’s flies. What comes next “speaks for itsseeelllfff!!!!”
9) The obligatory chase scene
Can’t think how to end your movie? Why not just chuck in a mad dash involving either jet skis, hot-air balloons, airboats, monster trucks or buses? None of these, however, are a patch on the mob riot from the original movie. For a child in the mid-1980s looking to emulate a wiseacre movie hero, it was hard to beat Guttenberg dodging bullets as Carey Mahoney. OK, maybe Axel Foley was more cool. And Venkman in Ghostbusters, for that matter. But Mahoney was still aces, OK?!
10) Hooks calls someone a dirtbag
Imagine the shock on the faces of cinemagoers when timid, mousy Sergeant Hooks erupts by yelling, “Don’t move, dirtbag!” at a criminal and holding them at gunpoint. It’s a tactic so effective that she repeats it in virtually every single sequel.