Tag Archives: Michael Winslow

Police Academy (1984, Hugh Wilson)

I forgot how loose eighties comedies are in terms of filmmaking and narrative. I don’t think Wilson has a single good shot in the film. The best ones are workmanlike at best and the worst… well, he has these absurdly weak low angle closeups on David Graf, either to make him look tall or crazy. It’s never clear.

Police Academy never concerns itself with a reasonable plot. For example, romance between Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall sort of disappears after a while. The movie only runs ninety minutes and change, so there’s not a lot of time for subplots–especially not after the relatively lengthy first act. But Guttenberg and Cattrall are the ostensible leads; only Cattrall disappears, replaced with the gag characters.

Pretty much everyone in the movie has a gimmick except Guttenberg, Cattrall and G.W. Bailey. Bailey’s the berating, abusive instructor, but it’s not exactly a gimmick. Bubba Smith is tall, Donovan Scott is a wimp, Bruce Mahler is a klutz. Then there’s Michael Winslow with the sound effects. It goes on and on.

There are some good performances. George Gaynes is funny as the dimwitted, but well-meaning commandant of the academy. Guttenberg is very appealing–one forgets he used to be good at these lead roles. Cattrall’s fine, though she has little do to. Smith, Winslow, Marion Ramsey, all good.

Bailey, unfortunately, is pretty weak. He’s sometimes funny… but he doesn’t have a character.

Police Academy has some all right, stupid laughs. But no smart ones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hugh Wilson; screenplay by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Wilson, based on a story by Israel and Proft; director of photography, Michael D. Margulies; edited by Robert Brown and Zach Staenberg; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Trevor Williams; produced by Paul Maslansky; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Cadet Carey Mahoney), Kim Cattrall (Cadet Karen Thompson), G.W. Bailey (Lt. Thaddeus Harris), Bubba Smith (Cadet Moses Hightower), Donovan Scott (Cadet Leslie Barbara), George Gaynes (Commandant Eric Lassard), Andrew Rubin (Cadet George Martín), David Graf (Cadet Eugene Tackleberry), Leslie Easterbrook (Sgt. Debbie Callahan), Michael Winslow (Cadet Larvell Jones), Debralee Scott (Mrs. Fackler), Bruce Mahler (Cadet Douglas Fackler), Ted Ross (Captain Reed), Scott Thomson (Cadet Chad Copeland), Brant von Hoffman (Cadet Kyle Blankes), Marion Ramsey (Cadet Laverne Hooks) and George R. Robertson (Chief Henry J. Hurst).


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Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985, Jerry Paris)

Julie Brown shows up at the end of Police Academy 2, which doesn’t make much sense since her character is only in one other scene and she doesn’t have a single line. I was left wondering if she didn’t have a bigger role and ended up cut out (she would have been Steve Guttenberg’s love interest–something he doesn’t have in the film). I imagine if she’d been left in the film, it might have been more amusing.

Police Academy 2 actually has a number of good laughs. Art Metrano is the sleazy police officer out to mess up the heroes so he can get a promotion and he does a fine job. Lots of decent jokes involving him. Not so many with anyone else, except maybe David Graf and Colleen Camp, who have the movie’s romance storyline. They both really like guns. It’s occasionally rather funny.

The film suffers from a lack of narrative. Director Paris started on features but ended up in sitcoms and Police Academy 2 plays like a long, bad sitcom episode. The only real storyline is Graf and Camp’s–the rest of the movie revolves around police captain Howard Hesseman in danger of losing his command (to Metrano), but it lacks any drama. One gag after the other propels the script… it would have helped if the film had a protagonist.

Hesseman looks embarrassed most of the time and no actor really stands out–though Bobcat Goldthwait was a few good moments.

It’s pretty dreadful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jerry Paris; screenplay by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, based on characters created by Neal Israel and Pat Proft; director of photography, James Crabe; edited by Bob Wyman; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Trevor Williams; produced by Paul Maslansky; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Officer Carey Mahoney), Bubba Smith (Officer Moses Hightower), David Graf (Officer Eugene Tackleberry), Michael Winslow (Officer Larvell Jones), Bruce Mahler (Officer Douglas Fackler), Marion Ramsey (Officer Laverne Hooks), Colleen Camp (Sgt. Kathleen Kirkland), Howard Hesseman (Capt. Peter ‘Pete’ Lassard), Peter Van Norden (Officer Vinnie Schtulman), Lance Kinsey (Sgt. Proctor), Art Metrano (Lt. Mauser), George Gaynes (Cmdt. Eric Lassard), George Robertson (Chief Henry J. Hurst), Tim Kazurinsky (Carl Sweetchuck) and Bobcat Goldthwait (Zed McGlunk).


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Spaceballs (1987, Mel Brooks)

It’s kind of amazing how much of Spaceballs is actually funny–pretty much everything with Rick Moranis and Mel Brooks as the Spaceballs president–given how everything with Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga falls flat. It doesn’t even fall… it’s a zero degree plane. Some of it has to do with the writing of that portion–Brooks and his co-writers aren’t particularly interested in the good guys because they aren’t funny (the jokes are cheap and substandard and Brooks tries to give it a narrative–and romantic tension–instead of playing against narrative for laughs, like the Moranis parts). But it’s not all poor writing–Pullman’s terrible and Zuniga’s worse, giving one of the abysmal performances in a Hollywood studio film from the 1980s.

There aren’t any good performances on the good guy side–John Candy’s probably the best, if only by comparison (he’s not good by any means and his character is unfunny) and Joan Rivers’s vocal work as the robot is obnoxious. It doesn’t help it’s obvious the robot is frequently a dummy. Brooks as the Yoda stand-in isn’t funny and the only amusing parts of his sequence (besides the Wizard of Oz reference, which is good) is trying to place the actors playing the Dinks (the Jawas). The less said about Dick Van Patten, the better.

The bad guys are all great, from Brooks as the dumb president (though it’s hard not to think he’s doing a Harvey Korman impression), George Wyner and then there’s Moranis. Moranis does something real strange in the movie, especially given the Pullman, Zuniga and Candy sequences. He acts and he acts very well.

The rest–the jokes about marketing–is hit and miss, but the real problem is Brooks tries to tie a narrative to the movie instead of just playing for laughs. It makes Spaceballs rely on Pullman and Zuniga, so it really can’t do anything but fail.

And… I really do think George Lucas ripped off the good planet’s costume designs for Episode I.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Mel Brooks; written by Brooks, Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham; director of photography, Nick McLean; edited by Conrad Buff IV; music by John Morris; production designed by Terence Marsh; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Mel Brooks (President Skroob / Yoghurt), Rick Moranis (Dark Helmet), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr), Daphne Zuniga (Princess Vespa), John Candy (Barf), George Wyner (Colonel Sandurz), Joan Rivers as the voice of Dot Matrix, Dick Van Patten (King Roland) and Michael Winslow (Radar Technician).


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