Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mission To Moscow

Warner Brothers delivered a new POLICE ACADEMY movie every March for most of the 1980s like clockwork. After the dismal box office of Part 6, which was the first in the series not to have a chart-topping opening weekend, the studio quietly retired the franchise. Why a seventh movie was made five years later is a mystery. It’s unlikely anyone was eagerly waiting to see it, and the five-year gap meant going to a POLICE ACADEMY sequel was no longer even an annual habit for moviegoers.

MISSION TO MOSCOW (I miss the numeral in the title) does sport one of the series’ more impressive casts, and filming in Russia adds some novelty to the hijinks. But the formula went stale during the five-year absence. Film comedy was changing—becoming cruder—and the good-natured appeal of the increasingly childish POLICE ACADEMY movies had become outdated. Making matters worse is that MOSCOW is a dismal outing.

Screenwriters Randolph Davis and Michele Chodos didn’t even try to inject logic into the script, which contains way too much story for a POLICE ACADEMY movie. Jones (Michael Winslow), Tackleberry (David Graf), Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), Harris (G.W. Bailey), Lassard (George Gaynes), and computer expert Kyle Connors (Charlie Schlatter, failing to Guttenberg up this movie) go to Moscow as part of an officer exchange program. Schlatter is remarkably free of charm and charisma, and director Alan Metter takes too much time away from the more familiar cast members to focus on a dull romantic subplot between Schlatter and Claire Forlani (MALLRATS) as a Russian interpreter.

With Lassard out of the way as an accidental houseguest with a Russian family that speaks no English, his American friends investigate crimelord Konstantin Konali (Ron Perlman), who has created a computer game called, uh, The Game that is creating addicted couch potatoes all over the world. Callahan goes undercover as a chanteuse to seduce Konali, while her co-stars scamper desperately for laughs.

Even by POLICE ACADEMY standards, MISSION TO MOSCOW is miserable. What little humor exists in the script is trampled on by the leadfooted Metter (BACK TO SCHOOL), who colluded with his timing-challenged editors to deliver a slow-moving 82 minutes. The new characters don’t register at all—not even Christopher Lee as a bumbling Russian chief—and the old gang look like they’re joylessly going through the motions.

Thankfully, producer Paul Maslansky called it quits after MISSION TO MOSCOW failed to attract even $1 million at the box office. Considering he had not only squeezed seven films, but also a syndicated sitcom and a Saturday morning cartoon out of the concept, I’d say he managed to overachieve very well.

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