DVD Dungeon: the post-Guttenberg Police Academy films

The first four Police Academy films just escape the DVD Dungeon. But films 5 to 7? Oh dear...

Police Academy. Gritty.

A film called Combat Academy is already residing in the DVD dungeon, a risible little effort inspired by the Police Academy series. Well, now it can hook up with some of its contemporaries as the final three films of the law enforcement franchise don the shackles of shame.

The first four films (let’s call them the Guttenberg era) were by no means cinematic masterpieces but at least there were a few laughs to be had along the way and Steve Guttenberg was largely responsible for that. Sure he didn’t have the out and out jokes that Michael Winslow, David Graf and George Gaynes had, but his charm and on-screen charisma lent those early films a personality that people could connect with. Like Bill Murray in Stripes, Guttenberg’s likeable rogue with a quip for every occasion and an eye for the ladies was never less than endearing and his relationships with the other characters (notably Bubba Smith’s Hightower) kept those earlier films, in particular the first two efforts, moving along at a pace.

By film number four (Citizens on Patrol) Guttenberg had had enough and moved on to pastures new, leaving behind Winslow, Graf, Smith et al and with him, bizarre as it may sound, went the heart of the series. Sure the plots and scripts had already gotten a little lazy by that point, but the loss of Guttenberg should have really been the time to end things. Of course, when faced with a successful, bankable franchise, that was the last thing on the film studio bods’ minds and just a year later, Assignment Miami Beach was released.

Bringing in Matt McCoy as Mahoney’s replacement was their trump card, and boy did it stink. McCoy had the smirks and the gurning down to a tee but crucially he lacked any charm or star power whatsoever. What that meant was that those latter films had no character that audiences could really connect with, no lead character to drive the films forward. Sure, they still had old favourites such as Tackleberry’s guns and Callahan’s breasts to keep them company but there are only so many jokes you can wrench out of these essentially one-dimensional characters, leaving it up to a Mahoney to keep audiences interested. And as Nick Lassard, McCoy just wasn’t up to the job.

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It got worse with number six in the series, 1989’s City Under Siege when even the actors themselves were starting to look bored. Perhaps that’s why in the seventh, and so far final, instalment of the series, Mission to Moscow, two of the original cast members, Bubba Smith and Marion Ramsey, weren’t included. However, one other notable actor was added to the bill – Hellboy’s Ron Perlman, as the head of the Russian mafia. That said, original cast members Winslow, Graf, Gaynes, Easterbrook and George W Bailey (as Captain Harris) did return to phone in their performances one last time. McCoy did not return.

Mission to Moscow was, and stills remains, one of the worst, most mirthless ‘comedy’ films I have ever seen (up there with Carry on Columbus and Junior) with not a single chuckle in sight and only serving to demonstrate exactly why the franchise should have come to an end years before.

There have been a few rumblings in recent years of a comeback for an eighth film so here’s a plea, from me personally, to the people who make these decisions. Please, for the love of all things holy, leave the franchise alone. Kicking a dead dog is of no use to anyone and I beg of you, let this mangy mutt rest in peace. You’ve done enough damage already.