Police Academy is a 1984 comedy film directed by Hugh Wilson, and starring Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall and G.W. Bailey. It grossed approximately $146 million worldwide and spawned six more films in the Police Academy series.
Due to a shortage of police officers, the newly-elected female mayor of an unnamed American city has announced a policy requiring the police department to accept all willing recruits, effectively abolishing fitness requirements, educational levels and medical standards. Not everyone in the police force is happy about the new changes.
Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) is an easygoing man who has repeatedly gotten himself in trouble with the law when standing up to arrogance. Mahoney is forced to join the police force as an alternative to jail, a proposal by Captain Reed who has been lenient on Mahoney because of knowing his father, who was also a policeman. Mahoney reluctantly agrees to this, deciding that he will get himself thrown out as a loophole. However, the chief of police (George R. Robertson), outraged by the Mayor's lowered requirements, decides that the new cadets should be forced to quit rather than being thrown out.
Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris (G.W. Bailey), who trains the cadets, agrees with the plan and employs tactics to make their lives as miserable as possible so that they do in fact quit. However, Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) is the only one who doesn't agree with both Harris and the chief of police's schemes. He wants to give the new cadets a chance. However, Harris agrees with the chief, seaking for Lassard's place as the leader, Mahoney tries many schemes to get thrown out as he cannot quit, since as part of the deal he made with Captain Reed, if he quits, he will be sent to jail. But eventually he has a change of heart and decides to stay for good, having fallen in love with another cadet, Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall).
While in the Academy, Mahoney becomes friends with fellow cadets Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow), a human beatbox; George Martin (Andrew Rubin), a ladies man who speaks with a fake Spanish accent to attract women; Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf), a military obsessed adrenaline junkie; Leslie Barbara (Donovan Scott), an overweight wimp; and Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith), a giant of a man who is actually quite shy and keeps away from violence. Mahoney helps Hightower prepare for the critical driving test and after he passes; Hightower is very thankful to Mahoney. Unfortunately, the "quit policy" does not apply to Hightower, who gets himself kicked out of the Academy by Harris because of an incident. After the hated cadet Chad Copeland (Scott Thomson) racially insults his friend and fellow cadet Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey), Hightower is offended and lifts the police car in which Copeland is seated. Despite Hooks and Harris trying to reason with him to calm down, he turns the car over on Copeland. Later on, both he and Kyle Blankes (Brant Von Hoffman) discovered what happened to their car.
Shortly after this, Mahoney and Barbara are having lunch in the cafeteria and talking about Hightower's expulsion. He's finally getting sick of being in the Academy, but refuses to quit. Despite Blankes and Copeland's attempt to get him to fight them so they can give Harris a reason to expel him, he still refuses. Barbara throws the first punch by hitting Copeland with a lunch tray and he passes out from it. Blankes is offended by him and punches him back, which promptly gets Mahoney involved in a brawl with him. When Lt. Harris asks them who started it, Mahoney takes the blame for throwing the first punch to protect Barbara's standing, which finally gives him the green light to expel his most despised cadet.
Before Mahoney actually leaves the premises, however, a major riot breaks out downtown. The resulting police emergency forces the cadets into real action for the first time. During the riot, a wanted criminal manages to steal two police revolvers from Blankes and Copeland. They managed to hide from the criminal in a building and much to their horror, it's the Blue Oyster Bar (gay bar). Barbara manages to avoid the rioters, but finds himself confronted by the same men who bullied him when he was working at a picture developing booth. Despite their attempts to bully him again, Barbara takes control of the situation by asserting himself. Soon he orders the men to return the furniture and leave, only to learn the men were actually moving out due to the riots.
The outlaw then proceeds to capture Harris in the confusion, taking the officer to the roof of a nearby building as a hostage. Mahoney, putting aside his uneven past with Harris, bravely attempts a rescue, which is promptly fumbled, allowing Mahoney to be taken as a second hostage. Just as both are about to be killed, it is none other than Hightower who suddenly appears on the rooftop to save the day. The former cadet manages to fool the madman into thinking he is a fellow crook and demands that he kill Harris. However, when the criminal does try to pull the trigger, Hightower easily knocks him unconscious and he falls onto the stairs. When he wakes up to kill Hightower, Hooks quickly apprehends him by entering the back door to the building (which she tried to tell Sgt. Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook) about earlier, but she couldn't hear her).
Mahoney and Hightower both graduate from the Academy a few days later and for their rescue of Lt. Harris and capture of his kidnapper, also receive the Academy's highest commendation. All of the cadets graduate with flying colors, finally winning a respectful salute from the reluctant Harris.
- Steve Guttenberg as Cadet Carey Mahoney
- Kim Cattrall as Cadet Karen Thompson
- Bubba Smith as Cadet Moses Hightower
- Donovan Scott as Cadet Leslie Barbara
- Michael Winslow as Cadet Larvell Jones
- Andrew Rubin as Cadet George Martin
- David Graf as Cadet Eugene Tackleberry
- Bruce Mahler as Cadet Douglas Fackler
- Marion Ramsey as Cadet Laverne Hooks
- Brant Von Hoffman as Cadet Kyle Blankes
- Scott Thomson as Cadet Chad Copeland
- G.W. Bailey as Lt. Thaddeus Harris
- George Gaynes as Cmndt. Eric Lassard
- Leslie Easterbrook as Sgt. Debbie Callahan
- George R. Robertson as Chief Henry J. Hurst
- Georgina Spelvin as Hooker
The film was shot entirely in and around the city of Toronto, Canada. The studio scenes were shot at Lakeshore Studios; the city scenes were filmed in various parts of Toronto.
The film grossed $81,198,894 in 1,587 theaters, making it the sixth biggest grossing film in the US in 1984. The film was also a success worldwide, grossing approximately $146 million. Although it was a commercial success, it received a mixed reception. The film currently has a 44% "Rotten" rating at the film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, which includes 7 positive and 9 negative reviews out of 16 reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film zero stars out of a possible four stars, commenting that "It's really something. It's so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you're sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don't know what bad is". Respected critic Vincent Canby of The New York Times however, gave the film a favorable review. The film's critical reception, however, is still better than its sequels, which have been universally panned by critics since they started being released.
Home video release
- Police Academy VHS (1984) The original theatrical version of the film released in 1984. In Europe it was released on VHS as Police Academy: What An Institution!
- Police Academy: 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD (1984) DVD was released around the world in 2004. Special features include a "Making of" documentary, Audio Commentary by the cast and the original theatrical trailer.
- Police Academy: The Complete Collection DVD [1984-1994]: This DVD collection is a seven disc boxset which included all seven Police Academy films released between 1984 and 1994. Police Academy 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are in 1.85:1 widescreen, Police Academy 4 and 5 are in 1.33:1 fullscreen. All of the films have multi-language subtitles and their own retrospective featurettes.
- 4 Film Favorites: Police Academy 1-4 Collection DVD set was released September 15, 2009. This set contains the first four films in the series on two double sided discs. There is an error on the DVD artwork which proclaims that the first film is anamorphic widescreen and contains the same special features as the 20th Anniversary edition. This however isn't true as the first film is the direct port of the original DVD release which is Full Screen and contains none of the special features present on the special edition. The second and third films are anamorphic widescreen and the fourth film is full screen. Police Academy 5-7 would be released in a DVD set entitled "4 Film Favorites: Cop Comedy Collection", packaged with National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1.
- "Police Academy: What an Institution!" Blu-ray was released 1 July 2013 as a Region Free Blu-ray. This Blu-ray contains one disc and special features.