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Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
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by Jack Sommersby

"Better Than It Has Any Right to Be"
3 stars

Of this six-sequel series this second entry is the second-best.

I found the inventive, alacritous 1984 box-office hit Police Academy consistently uproarious, and though Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment doesn't have near the laugh quotient, with only about sixty-five percent of the jokes scoring, it's amusing enough for a slight recommendation if you're willing to considerably lower your expectations. The original was chock-full of colorful characters partaking in a lot of funny business without ever stooping to bottom-level bathroom humor; and the engaging cast members were fresh and appealing to have on the silver screen - no, it wasn't that year's best comedy (that honor went to Neil Israel's classic Bachelor Party starring Tom Hanks, with Israel having co-written Police Academy), but it still managed to qualify as something of a minor classic. It racked up over eighty-five million in ticket sales, so it's little wonder a sequel has been cranked out a mere year later, with most of the cast and characters returning, with the new ones adequately filling the gaps. For the uninitiated, the first film centered on an unnamed big city experiencing a huge crime wave, with the mayor dropping many requisites for those entering the police academy, which resulted in a zany assortment of recruits. The leader of this eccentric bunch was Steve Guttenberg's rebellious Carey Mahoney, and Guttenberg is on hand again and just as boyishly ingratiating; without ever going smarmy on us, Guttenberg makes sure we know he's in on the joke while putting some ironic spin on things - you yield to Mahoney because he's just too good-natured to resist, knowing he always has a sly trick up his sleeve no matter the situation. Also returning are: Bubba Smith's physically imposing Hightower, David Graf's gun-loving martinet Tackleberry, Michael Winslow's sound-effects machine Larvell Jones, Marion Ramsey's reticent soft-spoken Hooks. New additions to the cast include Howard Hessman's Pete Lassard, the precinct commander of the worst crime-ridden section of the city who enlists Mahoney and his fellow rookies to help clean things up, and his antagonist Art Metrano's conniving Lt. Mauser who wants Lassard to fail so he can take over his position. While we miss the wonderful G.W. Bailey's villainous Captain Harris, Metrano mostly fills the bill as a worthy replacement. He has absolutely no qualms over looking spectacularly silly at times, especially during and after the mischievous Mahoney has replaced Mauser's shampoo with epoxy glue in the locker room shower. On the other end of the spectrum is the city's leader of the Scullions, the uncouth jackanapes Zed played by the standup comedian Bobcat Goldthwait who cuts loose here with unbridled aplomb - contrary to most screen villains he has the kind of quintessentially high-pitched, screechy voice that could shatter glass. (He's especially whiny when a gang member interrupts him in front of his projection TV inside their underground lair below an abandoned zoo, tearfully complaining "Can't you see, I'm watching Family Affair!") It's nice to see Tackleberry find his soulmate in an equally zenith-level 2nd Amendment zealot in the female motorcycle partner Kirkland (when she takes him to her home for dinner her relatives are nuttier than the both of them combined), and Mahoney has been given a hoot of a partner in the always-ravenous, gluttonous Vinnie Schtulman who thinks every meal is the most important one of the day (he's not above wiping ants off a discarded candy bar on a downtown bench and woofing it down, but not before generously offering some to Mahoney). As you've easily surmised by now Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment is not one for subtlety, and while the hand of director Jerry Paris is much cruder than that of the original director Hugh Wilson's, it gets the job done acceptably enough. (It certainly doesn't hurt that Oscar-nominated James Crabe has persuasively lit it.) As far as these things go the movie works. Mind you, in no way shape or form does it better the original or even enhance it, but it admittedly gets the job done all things considered provided your responsive level doesn't extend beyond that of your everyday sitcom.

Perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon equipped with a six-pack.

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originally posted: 09/22/20 08:26:43
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  29-Mar-1985 (PG-13)



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