The first of a whopping seven films in the series, two short-lived television series, and it’s still the only one worth watching, Police Academy is an amiable, juvenile romp that is recommended for a few belly laughs and a number of moments to smile at. This was one of the most popular of many early 80s films to feature a cast of misfits who find strength in unity, becoming heroes in the end (Stripes and Revenge of the Nerds are other prime examples).
Steve Guttenberg (Three Men and a Baby, Cocoon) plays Mahoney, a lifetime troublemaker who ends up being ordered to go to a police academy to learn what it’s like to be one of the police officers having to deal with creeps like him. With a new mayor in town, there is a new policy, whereby anyone can enroll into a police academy, regardless of weight, age, height, etc. Now all sorts of cadets are competing for a chance to be a police officer, but the powers that be within the academy want to make sure none of these sorry recruits ever hit the streets.
Not all of the jokes work, and some of them are downright bad, but for the most part, it’s done all in good cheer. There’s a laid back charm to it all, with some funny eccentric characters interacting and playing pranks in some genuinely funny ways. Guttenberg’s the star, but he’s easily overshadowed by some of the zany supporting cast, most notably Michael Winslow’s (Spaceballs) one-man sound machine, George Gaynes (Henry from “Punky Brewster“) “many many” funny expressions, and David Graf’s “Dirty Harry” extreme. However, the best comic performance goes to G.W. Bailey (Sgt. Luther Rizzo from “M*A*S*H“), as the antagonistic Lt. Harris, whose comeuppance makes for the film’s funniest gags.
It’s raunchy, lowbrow entertainment for those in the mood for it. Police Academy is as easy to watch as it is easy to forget, but just don’t forget this: if you have a good time watching, don’t be tempted to view any of the god-awful sequels.