Thursday, May 10, 2012

Citizens On Patrol

Sitcom legend Jerry Paris, who directed the first two POLICE ACADEMY sequels, was also supposed to do POLICE ACADEMY 4, but he died of a brain tumor. Replacing him was Jim Drake, who earned Emmy nominations for episodes of BUFFALO BILL and THE GOLDEN GIRLS. The screenplay by Gene Quintano (NATIONAL LAMPOON’S LOADED WEAPON 1) is basically a remake of earlier POLICE ACADEMY plots with the misfit heroes attempting to help their old commandant, Lassard (PUNKY BREWSTER's Gaynes), and sycophantic comic villain Harris (M*A*S*H's G.W. Bailey, returning from the first POLICE ACADEMY) trying to sabotage them in order to earn a promotion for himself.

The increasingly loopy Lassard’s latest brainstorm is a program called Citizens on Patrol (yes, COP) in which civilians will be trained to operate as amateur police officers. Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), Hightower (BubbaSmith), Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), Hooks (Marion Ramsey), Jones (Michael Winslow), Tackleberry (David Graf), Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait), and Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky) volunteer to train Lassard’s new recruits, while Harris and old foil Proctor (Lance Kinsey) struggle like Wile E. Coyote to make the new program fail. Also helping Lassard is journalist Claire, who becomes Mahoney’s latest love interest and is played by Sharon Stone, who was just coming off a pair of unsuccessful Allan Quatermain adventures for Cannon.

This film is a real mess with barely a story and a mismatch of individual scenes spliced together to make ninety minutes. With so many characters running around and screeching at each other, none is able to distinguish themselves. It feels like even the main stars like the smarmy Guttenberg and Smith are hardly ever onscreen, and Stone may as well be Blonde #4 for as much as she gets to do. Drake’s direction is lifeless, not that the material is particularly distinguished, and the energy that directors Hugh Wilson and Paris brought to the earlier movies is missing. The unstructured climax involves ninjas, biplanes, and hot air balloons (as well as admittedly fine stuntwork), and Stacy Peralta (DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS) directed the zippy skateboard scenes.

A definite letdown from the three previous POLICE ACADEMYs, this one still opened at #1 at the box office and led to still another (Guttenberg-less) sequel the following spring. Also with David Spade (in his film debut), Randall “Tex” Cobb, Brian Tochi, Billie Bird, Corinne Bohrer, Tab Thacker, Jackie Joseph, Arthur Batanides, Brian Backer, Andrew Paris, Derek McGrath, Tony Hawk, and Colleen Camp returning from POLICE ACADEMY 2 as Tackleberry’s wife. Music by Robert Folk. Filmed in Toronto. Motown released a soundtrack album.

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