A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Police Academy is a classic of '80s cop-spoof films but it is not for kids. The sophomoric humor is rooted in one-dimensional character stereotypes, and there is frequent profanity, as well as nudity, sex, and violence. Furthermore, unlike similar '80s movies like Airplane!, Meatballs, and Caddyshack, Police Academy's "so dumb it's funny" brand of comedy hasn't aged well. Parents looking to share with their kids the '80s movies of their youth are encouraged to look elsewhere.
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What's the story?
The mayor has just passed a law lowering the standards necessary to meet the minimum qualifications required to join the police force. As a result, dozens of misfits who ordinarily wouldn't have tried are now attending the POLICE ACADEMY. There's a gung-ho security guard named Tackleberry, a rich girl looking to expand her horizons (Kim Cattrall), and a guy who makes sound effects with his mouth, among many others. The ringleader of this ragtag bunch is Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), who is sent to the police academy as an alternative to jail time after vandalizing a Trans Am at his parking garage job. He is not allowed to quit -- if he does, he goes to jail. But the disciplinarian Lieutenant Harris, in conjunction with the bumbling Commandant Lassard, have determined that no one will be kicked out. This means that Mahoney, along with the rest, are trapped at the academy as they fumble their way into being cops. When a riot breaks out in the city, these officers-in-training are sent to assist the actual police and must prove they have what it takes to be bona fide members of law enforcement.
Is it any good?
Obviously, Police Academy lacks the wit and sophistication of, say, a Woody Allen film. There is no question that it's firmly rooted in the school of '80s lowbrow humor. That being said, compared to similar films from the era, like Airplane!, Meatballs, and Caddyshack, the first of many Police Academy films simply isn't all that funny. The one-dimensional characters grow tiresome and predictable, the pratfalls and sightgags grow tedious, and many of the one-liners are dated to the point of corniness.
For families, the one or two laughs Police Academy may garner isn't worth all the profanity, sex, and violence happening throughout, to say nothing of the racial and homophobic slurs dropped throughout. Parents looking to share some memories from the '80s will find better options.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters in the movie. What makes them funny or not? Are stereotypes ever funny? When does comedy go too far?
What are some aspects of the film that root it firmly in the 1980s?
What similarities and differences do you see in this film compared to other comedies from the '80s? What about compared to more modern comedies?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.