Friday, May 11, 2012

Assignment: Miami Beach

Alan Myerson, a television veteran who began his feature career with the accomplished STEELYARD BLUES, was the fourth straight sitcom director to take the reins of a POLICE ACADEMY movie. Although he already had hours of TV comedy and drama under his belt by the time he went to Florida to helm this awkwardly titled farce, PRIVATE LESSONS is probably what attracted producer Paul Maslansky to him. Myerson’s experience is evident in this sun-soaked sequel, as it moves more nimbly and hits more comic targets than the dismal POLICE ACADEMY 4.

Not that you notice the director very much, since by this time the POLICE ACADEMY series had degenerated into random scenes of flatulence, puerile gags, and raucous property destruction tied together with the flimsiest of storylines (this one created by FAMILY TIES writer Stephen Curwick). Even Steve Guttenberg had enough of it, splitting the series for greener grass of three men, babies, cocoons, and short circuits and earning big Bubba Smith top billing. POLICE ACADEMY 5 manages more laughs than you would expect from a sequel with a 5 in its title, and offering up Janet Jones in a swimsuit is just a bonus. It ain’t sophisticated, but it doesn’t hurt much either.

You gotta say this for the POLICE ACADEMY graduates—they certainly are loyal to their befuddled old commandant, Lassard (George Gaynes). After nemesis Captain Harris (G.W. Bailey) engineers a scheme that forces Lassard to retire from the department, the old man goes to Miami to accept his (inexplicable) award for Police Officer of the Decade. There, he accidentally switches suitcases with a gang of jewel thieves, and needs former recruits Hightower (Bubba Smith), Jones (Michael Winslow), Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), Hooks (Marion Ramsey), and House (Tab Thacker) to get him out of trouble.

The formula is set by now—Jones does his kung fu bit, the meek-voiced Hooks shouts at someone, Harris is utterly humiliated over and over, and it all ends in a big chase. Myerson doesn’t vary from it and deserves some credit for making it palatable the fifth time through. Matt McCoy (best known from L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and as SEINFELD's Lloyd Braun) takes over for Steve Guttenberg as the prank-pulling leading man. However, he’s far less charming than (even) Guttenberg, and his wiseguy antics and romantic chemistry with the wooden Jones (AMERICAN ANTHEM) fall flat. Also with James Hampton (F TROOP), Dan Fitzgerald (KING FRAT), Archie Hahn, Jerry Lazarus, George R. Robertson, Dan Barrows, and Myerson smoking a cigar. Music by Robert Folk.

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