The Seven Seas. The Seven Dwarves. The Magnificent Seven. The Seven Continents. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. All these sevens have two things in common: 1) They all involve having more than six, but less than eight of something and 2) They are all fictional. (C’mon…Asia and Europe are the same landmass. Call it Eurasia and be done with it already.) Seven is a number that reflects completeness, exempting the show Eight Is Enough of course. (History has shown that eight were definitely too much and indeed even four would have been more than adequate for that particular program.)
The Seven Deadly Sins can also be counted amongst the ranks of elite Sevens even though they are completely misnamed. But I suppose calling it “The Seven Basic Motivations for Evildoingness” would be too wordy, not to mention a crime against grammar laws as recognized by the Geneva Convention and the Rotary Club of Minneapolis.
One question though: if the establishing powers that be were so fixated on this list being deadly, why isn’t murder on the list? How about bludgeoning? Seemingly these aren’t deadly enough for them. “Nah, thanks for the suggestions, but we’re going with sloth!” Granted, most of us weren’t alive back in the late 1940s when these sins were determined after almost two months of halfhearted research, so this is only an approximation as to what could have happened.
While examining these deadly sins with pinpoint alacrity, an alarming parallel emerged from my investigation. I am taking a brave step to share with the huddled masses what I have discovered. After much finagling and contriving, I have ascertained that each of the Seven Deadly Sins match up perfectly to each of the Seven Deadly Police Academy Movies! I can tell through by your indifference that you doubt my theory. Well, I want to remind everyone that just as eventually scientists proved science, so I shall prove this as well.
Here are my manipulated results:
Deadly Sin #1: Pride
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy
Back in the 1980s, there was a halcyon time where R-rated comedies ruled supreme. During these family-oriented dollar-loving bland modern times of whatever era we’re in, we may never see resurgence in this genre. This is sad and depressing and ultimately sad. On the other hand, they also had to contend with the law of diminishing sequels. Thus we ended up with no less than three Porky’s movies, four Meatballs flicks, and four Revenge of the Nerds films for crying out loud. But back then, as they all printed money like Sunday newspaper coupons, who could blame anyone for having a go?
Producer Paul Maslansky saw his chance and wanted to get into the mix with an organizational comedy. But which organization? Animal House took a shot at college. Caddyshack swiped at the country club scene. Chariots of Fire took aim at pale British runners and definitely brought those guys down a deserved peg or two. Maslansky finally decided on the police as an overripe target. He hired two proven comedy writers, Pat Proft (Police Squad!) and Neal Israel (Bachelor Party), for the screenplay and WKRP in Cincinnati’s Hugh Wilson to direct. Wilson and Maslansky then filled the film with a cast of then neverwases and whointhehellisthats, put Steve Guttenberg in the lead as the amiable wisearse, threw in slapstick and some gratuitous nudity, and blended it together with that evergreen “snobs versus the slobs” mentality and voila! History and more importantly, boatloads of cash were made and a resulting comedy classic arises.
How could they not feel that smug pride from every orifice? Look at what the first Police Academy brought about in its wake: six sequels, an animated show, a comic book, a much-forgotten syndicated show, and even action figures. Of course we were also left with the similarly fonted but unrelated Vice Academy movies and Combat Academy. While not Police Academy’s fault, it is their fault at the same time. That being said, the revenue from this first film couldn’t be spent fast enough. However, as Michael Dukakis or perhaps someone even wiser once said, “Pride goeth before a fall.” Duly noted even if their spelling might have been off, but not by mucheth.
Deadly Sin #2: Greed
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
Now this is not the worst sequel in the history of the world, but not the best either. (The honor of best sequel ever is obviously reserved for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.) However as the first Police Academy made approximately 108 kajillion dollars, if you adjust for inflation, why not spin the wheel again? This time around though, let’s cut the large cast of misfits from the first movie down to six, hire Bobcat Goldthwait and Tim Kazurinsky (great choices, by the way), have Howard Hesseman look lost, and give Art Metrano the sad task of trying to follow up G.W. Bailey as the main antagonistic martinet. The bottom line: apparently all these shenanigans were cheaper than having to pay Kim Catrall to appear again.
The sad part is it almost works. There are some good moments but the choice to go to PG-13 instead of R is a massive indication of adjusting to cater to a larger audience. Fewer “bad guy’s head in the horse’s ass” moments and more “gosh, the kids will love this” moments resulted in everything being spread out rather thin. It also helps the production’s budget go further whenever you substitute some random Canadian city for an American one. I know I’m always mystified when trying to tell New York or Chicago apart from Vancouver or Toronto. It is almost impossible unless you have the ability of sight. After all, Calgary looks just like Los Angeles if you sort of squint and ignore the hockey jerseys, eh?
Ultimately, the greed can’t help but overflow and practically gush over the side of this entry. Despite a script from some Saturday Night Live alums and direction from The Dick Van Dyke Show’s own Jerry Paris, the resulting film is ultimately rather disappointing. And on a personal taste side note to the producers: thanks for hamstringing Tackleberry with a wife and that amazingly annoying group of in-laws, the Kirklands. Wow. And then you went ahead and brought them back in Part 3. And then yet again for Part 4?! What in the hell was the thought process there Mr. Random Studio Executives? Sure there were tired jokes throughout the series, but this one…this one just spit in our faces.
(Speaking of spitting in your face, have you seen what this incredible author had to say about Police Academy 2? This guy has a solid take indeed!)
Deadly Sin #3: Lust
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy 3: Back In Training
Was there ever someone or something that you just wanted more than anything else in the world but was unattainable? It occupied your thoughts and mind, you perhaps prayed for it, maybe you even thought of just taking it. I understand, I have been there myself. However, I got over it when I realized that M.A.S.K. was just a show so I would never have a Camaro that flies. A horrible thought to be sure, but I had to grudgingly move along with my mundane, non-flying-car-with-laser-cannons-owning life.
Part 3 suffers from lusting after Part 1. Oh, it wants Part 1, it wants to be Part 1, and it wants all the perks and love and adoration that the first one received. And yet, it falls short. Maddeningly short. All we’re left with is what could have been and unfortunately what was. Sure everyone is off the hard-hitting Canadian streets and back at the academy, sure there’s another bunch of misfit recruits, and sure George Gaynes has a larger role. But it ultimately becomes overstuffed with mediocrity. The only one that comes out smelling like a rose is G.W. Bailey. That’s because he must have been hanging out with Kim Catrall, because they were both unavailable for this one too.
The PG rating for this movie and for all of the movies that follow in the series certainly doesn’t help. You know it’s bad when Part 2 actually looks gritty and edgier in comparison. The original cast at this point have become like the original Star Trek crew by the time of their 5th movie: familiar in their roles, no real dramatic growth going on, looking forward to that paycheck because they aren’t getting top billing anywhere else, and at the end of the day they didn’t get along with Shatner either.
An overlong boat/jet ski/canoe chase (with ducks!) to end on and all is right with the world. The academy we love is still around, those loveable scamps saved the day, and somewhere there’s someone thinking that they made the best flick since the first one. You sad deluded bastard you. Get over it, you have to move on.
Deadly Sin #4: Gluttony
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol
I just want to start off and say that I think no matter what the sequel, no matter what the series, the title should follow with Citizens on Patrol. It just fits. Lethal Weapon 4: Citizens on Patrol. Star Wars Episode V: Citizens on Patrol. 2 Fast 2 Furious: Citizens on Patrol. Catchy isn’t it? Try it at home!
Why gluttony for Part 4 in the saga? Well, it doesn’t have to do with the casting of the late Tab Thacker as the character House. Yes, he was a big guy, but this film was a group effort in mediocrity. This gluttonous flick is just so jammed full of people that it never has a chance to breathe. You just sit there in your theater seat, having characters and subplots crammed down your throat and soon you’re all distended, throwing up, and suddenly Guttenberg leaves the series. You get some of the original cast as well as Bobcat, Kazurinsky, G.W. Bailey’s return, that horribly stereotypical Asian guy that was in Part 3, a German shepherd, a gun-loving old lady, an actual Citizens On Patrol theme song(!), Randall “Tex” Cobb, a hot air balloon chase (?), a pre-anything Sharon Stone, and YET ANOTHER GROUP OF MISFITS (!?!&!)
With everything going on, I am amazed they found the time to give Michael Winslow anything to do onscreen. And this new group of misfits is even worse and unmemorable than the last new group in Part 3. Besides the aforementioned Thacker, David Spade shows up as an insolent skateboarder that G.W. Bailey cannot stand. For once, I agree with Bailey. At least Guttenberg was a charismatic smartass, but Spade is just there, obviously saddled with lines that he didn’t write and is whiny and uncomfortable in saying them. The late great Bubba Smith is a towering thespian in comparison. In one scene they share together, Smith brings out some hitherto unseen acting chops and is actually impressive! Well, impressive for this series that is.
This one is the watershed. Steve Guttenberg leaves the franchise after this film. He was certain that the hits would keep coming. And for a while, he was right. The Police Academys, Short Circuit, the Cocoon movies, and Three Men and a Baby all were quite the coup for Mr. Guttenberg. But I’ll wager that he saw how overblown this series had become and after seeing his screen time dwindling in order to accommodate the ever-growing cast, he walked away. The bloated, overstuffed, gelatinous series was never the same.
Deadly Sin #5: Envy
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach
Jealousy can be an ugly thing. For years, I was jealous of the coaches of our high school girls’ softball team. I would inquire, “Why not me?” I could be just as burly and overbearing as they were. I didn’t shave and I was attempting a moustache just like them. Still those women coaches wouldn’t let me be the team manager. In retrospect it was unfair and rather sexist. I would’ve sued the ladies that comprised the coaching staff if I wasn’t so sure they would have cleaned my clock for doing so.
Part 5 really wants to be part of the series, it really does. (Perhaps it has a better claim than Part 7, but I don’t regard Part 7 as an actual movie, let alone part of the franchise.) Sure there’s the top-billed Bubba Smith, but it isn’t the same. The overwhelming presence of the absent Steve Guttenberg hovers around throughout the film. Instead of Mahoney, we get Matt McCoy, who among other things was the insane Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld once, but here he is just too vague as a character. Kind of like the faux Duke boys that took over during season 5 of The Dukes of Hazzard. At the end of the day, the scripts really weren’t that different, but those well-meaning guys were in an unwinnable position. Same with McCoy; he’s got affability in more spades than he knows what do with, but in the end, we want him to be Stevie G and he never will be.
Let’s go back a pace too. Bubba Smith has top billing in this movie. Bubba. Smith. My. God. As a reference, take a look at A Few Good Men’s cast billing. Tom Cruise is first and then Jack Nicholson. Okay, now switch that around and put Nicholson ahead of Cruise. You could live with that right? Jack is a bona fide legend, so I’ll just say yes. Now when you take Steve Guttenberg out, you put Hightower first? Above George Gaynes? Above Rene Auberjonois? Above the catering crew? I would have preferred giving Bobcat and Kazurinsky billing over Bubba and they weren’t even in this one.
So despite going through a series of mishaps and zany madcap antics and even a scene involving a .44 Magnum and a shark, Part 5 limps along to the end after yet another boat chase. Part 5 wants to be part of the series and it just stops short of stopping even shorter. The strongest indictment: even Part 4 has fans; Part 5 gets purchased only because you had to buy the whole Police Academy set.
Deadly Sin #6: Wrath
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy 6: City Under Siege
Why wrath? An excellent question! If I were doing Star Trek movies, the comparisons would be easy as one of those even has wrath in the title. Sometimes however, you stretch a premise to the point of breaking and have to make square pegs fit in round holes. And this is why Part 6 ends up here.
I like to think that there was audience backlash on Part 5. Perhaps it resonated with the producers when it was realized that they strayed too far. Trying to make amends, they actually hired a good comedy director in The Bob Newhart Show’s Peter Bonerz for Part 6. There was also a tighter, funnier plot. No, really! There were some parts that were actually funny for a PG movie. I believe everyone locked arms, were pissed that they were doubted on Part 5, and therefore unleashed the better Part 6 to the public. A sequel released in anger is a beautiful sight indeed. Unfortunately it was released in 1989. If your movie didn’t involve bats, fighting Nazis with a whip, busting ghosts, a flux-capaciting DeLorean, James Bond, Riggs and Murtaugh, or even Weird Al, your movie failed. And that is what happened to Part 6, dying on the vine, jam-packed amongst the blockbuster extravaganzas. Another comedy released that year, Star Trek V, tanked at the box office as well, so it was nothing personal.
And then the public, so used to having these films every single bloody year, was now left in the darkness and could only wonder why. Why did they pay admission for these films with such blazing abandon that the producers were therefore encouraged to keep making them? An excellent question. The only answer: the cushy franchise with accepted formulas were comedic comfort food for the masses. A Big Mac is a Big Mac is a Big Mac. You knew what you were getting. It was filling but not that nutritious or beneficial.
In the end wrath begot wrath and the series appeared to vanish in the sunset. Even the ill-thought of cartoon series managed to die off, finally. There appeared to be nothing on the horizon except for cashing residual checks. Until…
Deadly Sin #7: Sloth
Police Academy Movie: Police Academy: Mission To Moscow
Were you like me in the late 1990s and never knew that there was a Part 7? I remember the day quite well. Back in college I would frequent the local grocery store as they had videos for rent at reasonable prices. Going through their collection, I came across the Police Academy saga and looked at the VHS boxes in fond remembrance. (Well, except for Part 5, of course.) And then there was some box art that I never remember seeing before. I picked up Part 7 and did a double take, twice. My first thought: “They made ANOTHER one?” I had to take this flick back to the dorm to watch immediately. Throwing cash at the counter, I rented it and bolted for the exit. I sped away and managed to get three blocks before remembering that I had driven there so perhaps using my car to get back would be much quicker. I doubled back, got in my car, got back to my dorm, threw the tape in and watched Part 7.
Now I might have been lazy in not keeping up with my Police Academy movies, but that’s nothing compared to the slothfulness I watched onscreen. Plenty of bad slapstick gags that meander around like a drunken clown on barbiturates and lots of Russian extras that rightfully look confused all the time. Then you get only Michael Winslow, David Graf, Leslie Easterbrook, George Gaynes, and G.W. Bailey. That’s like a quarter of the cast to start with in the first place. They couldn’t even get Bubba Smith back. Bubba. Smith. Let that sink in for a moment. And really only G.W. Bailey comes across moderately well and that’s as generous as I can get. The cast also has a pre-Mallrats Claire Forlani who couldn’t afford to know better as well as Christopher Lee who knew better many times over, but also recognized that a paycheck is a paycheck, so he can skate somewhat for signing up for this drivel.
The thrill of actually being in Russia must have appealed to someone. I don’t know who, but someone. Certainly not to paying theater audiences as this film grossed what travelling ice cream vendors usually earn in early February in northern Minnesota. It got to the point where I finished the movie only because I felt so damn sorry for the familiar faces in the cast who I had loved over the years. I couldn’t help it. They just wanted to make some scratch and get a trip to Russia. If they made a movie, so be it. For what it’s worth, at least they got the trip to Russia.
I never thought I would miss Bubba Smith more in a movie than I did after seeing this. That being said, I never thought I would miss Matt McCoy either. Hell, even if Bobcat showed up as an irate Russian peasant woman, I would have cheered, but no. Nothing. I would have done anything for another damn boat chase of some kind, but no. Nothing. Part 7 had only sloth and lethargy in abundance, resulting in the Police Academy series not ending with a bang, but with a whimper in a gulag of irrelevance.
Oh, and Ron Perlman is in Part 7 too, but I got too lazy to mention it.
Well, for those of you still awake, I hope that my points were proven and the discovered parallels were breathtaking. Thanks for joining me on this journey. I think we as humans grew closer together as a species. Achieving that admirable goal is indeed a priceless jewel in the crown of the valuable baseball card stuck in the spokes of the bicycle of life. And since my voluminous scientific grant check has arrived, I will next examine the obvious correlation between the four common earth elements and the four Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Superman IV: Citizens On Patrol will be a blast!