Thursday, May 12, 2005

He was Bob Saget before Bob Saget was cool: "Police Academy"

Let's all take a minute to remember our dearly departed friend Steve Guttenberg. What's that? He's not dead? Really? You're positive. Well ... how about that?

You know how some movies from the early 1980s just have that unexplainable staying power that has idiots like me quoting lines two decades later? Quick, what's your favorite quote from "Fletch?" How about "Revenge of the Nerds?" (Don't worry, I'll wait.) Alas, other movies just don't have it. I'll never forget when I saw "Strange Brew" a few years ago, as I was pushing 30. What seemed downright hilarious back in 1983 -- "Take off, you hoser" ... hee hee -- left me confused and cursing myself for pissing away 90 minutes.

Which brings us to "Police Academy." This movie, well, it ... what's the word I'm looking for? Ah yes ... sucks. Really, was it this bad when I was 11? Could it be that my parents were right to keep me away from this juvenile comedy? Not because of the swearing and boobies, but because it just wasn't funny? Whatever the reason, I need to call my mom and thank her ... and then apologize for watching this steaming pile of crap now that I supposedly am old enough make my own decisions.

We all know the premise, which spawned not one, not two, but six sequels. Didn't Nostradamus write about this as a sign of the second coming? In any case, a bunch of misfits of various stripes enroll in their local police academy, and hijinks ensue. Yeah, that's a pitch meeting I'm sorry I missed. Oh, but let's not judge this classic on plot. We would be remiss if we didn't take a closer look at the cast:
  • Steve Guttenberg: Um, let's save him for later.
  • Kim Cattrall: Sure, she ended up on "Sex in the City," but PA paved the way for "Mannequin," one of the great bad movies of my childhood. (To be fair, she also was in "Big Trouble in Little China," which is awesome.)
  • G.W. Bailey: I always confuse him with M.C. Gainey.
  • Bubba Smith: A refugee from "Blue Thunder." That's the TV show, friends.
  • David Graf: The infamous Tackleberry, and if not for the PA movies, he's pumping gas in Pasedena.
  • Michael Winslow: The noises guy. No offense, but I can make fart sounds with my armpit.

So yeah, an impressive lineup. Sure, I remember thinking the noises guy -- that really should be his name, shouldn't it? -- was funny when I actually was making fart sounds. And I suppose the uber-militant Tackleberry was mildly amusing. (Sidebar: My pal Greg once told another guy -- friend of a friend -- that he looked like Tackleberry. The gentleman did not take it well, and now greets Greg with "F*ck you.") But it's rather bizarre how this pedestrian junk commanded a big audience and generated a half-dozen offspring.

But hey, what about the Great Guttenberg! Check out the first line of his Internet Movie Database biography: "Although Steve Guttenberg is firmly established as the star not only of hit motion pictures, but of hit motion picture franchises, his roots are firmly in the theatre." Yeah, I could tell. Oh, not by "Police Academy." By his latest fine works: "Domino One," "Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus" and "P.S. Your Cat is Dead."

Now, now ... I know what you're saying. "Sure, it's easy to be hard on Steve now, what with him in his late 40s and well beyond his heyday." And yes, "Diner" was a fine film, "The Day After" was a seminal miniseries and even "Cocoon" was solid. (Whither Tahnee Welch? Hubba hubba.) But I challenge you to name an actor who has suffered so much when his career is viewed in hindsight. I mean, when you trot out "Police Academy," "Short Circuit" and "Three Men and a Baby" as your hits, I don't smell a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy.

Maybe even worse, Guttenberg wasn't funny in "Police Academy." Compared with other movies of the era, the dialogue falls flat -- not his fault, perhaps -- and he doesn't take over the film. But it's great that he got more work out of the series, especially since he didn't have to worry about other, middling projects like "Ghostbusters" (turned down the Bill Murray role) and "Big" (turned down the Tom Hanks role). But I bet those guys weren't considered for "Zeus and Roxanne," right?

Oh, and Matt ... was this post long enough for your trip to the pooper?


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