An understaffed police department opens its ranks to recruits of any gender, age or weight in 1984’s Police Academy, AKA If…. meets On the Buses.
This comedy sees a new recruit (Steve Guttenberg) looking to get thrown out of the Academy à la Corporal Klinger in M*A*S*H, leading to various clashes with no-nonsense Gordon Brown lookalike Lieutenant Harris (M*A*S*H’s G.W. Bailey) and romance with a fellow cadet (Kim Cattrall). Following the mould of Animal House and Caddyshack, the movie dispatches underdog characters, transgressive humour and gratuitous nudity to send up a reactionary institution.
Police Academy works in all the ways Starship Troopers fails: distinctive characters, actual jokes and subversion rather than reenforcement of Top Gun–style fascism. It also flips the script and satirises liberal permissiveness, though its lazy use of stereotypes means the more diverse characters get the short end of the baton. The breakout star is human sound effect machine Michael Winslow, who would also voice the Gremlins that same year.
Funny and obnoxious in equal measure, Police Academy produced six sequels despite a shortage of material to rival Guttenberg’s cutoff denims.