Former NFL defensive end and actor Bubba Smith passed away yesterday. Smith put together a legendary career at Michigan State and had a nice professional career as well, playing on the Colts team that won Super Bowl V and earning a couple of Pro Bowl selections. I never saw Smith play a down of football. To me, he was Hightower from Police Academy. I had an odd obsession with the Police Academy movies as a kid. In honor of Bubba Smith, I thought I’d look at it a little closer.
Police Academy had a textbook run for a comedy and its many sequels. Start off very strong and then water it down until there is absolutely nothing left. Just in the case of Police Academy, it took a lot longer to get to the end of the run. Perhaps you left the series after Police Academy 3: Back in Training. That might be the last one Steve Guttenberg didn’t completely mail-in, but there are actually seven Police Academy movies (with an 8th due out in 2012–I couldn’t believe it either). Not many franchises can be that prolific outside of the horror genre. Major League went from one of the best sports movies ever to one of the worst movies ever made in just three films. I’m trying to think of other comedy franchises. Porky’s. Revenge of the Nerds. Naked Gun. I think Meatballs may have cranked out 4 movies, so did Vacation, but seven? Really?
The embarrassing thing about it for me is, I came in right around Police Academy 3. The original was before my time a little bit, and I think a bit racy for my youth as well. I may have thought that Back in Training was the first in the franchise for a while. That’s how clueless I was. And, just like my Dad told me one day that Hightower used to be a football player, I eventually figured out there was a Police Academy 1 & 2. Hey look, it’s Kim Cattrall. But, even after seeing the originals (which I’m sure are considered the better films), my heart is loyal to that trash they pumped out in the late eighties. I mean, City Under Siege? Epic.
The amazing thing about Police Academy was that most of the main characters stuck around. Wesley Snipes was way too famous to be in Major League 2. But, the most famous guy in Police Academy (Guttenberg shockingly enough), managed to fit the first four movies around his other massive projects like 3 Men and a Baby. And, others stayed longer. Jones, Tackleberry, Hightower, Callahan, Hooks, Harris, Lasard…were these actors ever in another movie? What were people missing? I guess they couldn’t get a break, which was bad news for them, but great news for late-model Police Academy devotees, like myself.
If I put in Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach right now, I’m not sure I could actually sit through the entire thing. It must be terrible. Watching comedies you liked when you were 10 is a little like looking at special effects from the 70s, or looking at a picture of yourself proudly wearing black jeans. What was I thinking? I guess I was more easily amused. And, for that reason I won’t be in any hurry to re-watch any of the Police Academy movies. I don’t want to tarnish their memory. I have my version of how they played out in waves of hilarity, and I think I’ll stick to that.
Top Five Horrendous Comedies I’ve Seen Way to Many Times:
- Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
- Caddyshack II
- Bio Dome
- Ghostbusters II