Kindergarten Cop

Ah-nuld confirms his comedy credentials in this pleasing action romp.

Released in 1990, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 29 Jul 2003 by Drew Tavendale
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What do you think of when you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger? Huge muscles, bigger weapons, multiple explosions and a body count that would put most despots to shame? Am I getting close? So it would be really funny to stick Mr. Schwarzenegger, the archetypal All-American/Austrian hero, into a situation where his normal methods of resolving a situation (not so much shoot first, ask questions later as shoot first, shoot again, shoot some more and then trawl through the wreckage of any building left standing for information) are entirely useless, and poke fun at his action hero persona, wouldn't it? Well - yes, actually (to a degree).

Re-uniting with director Ivan Reitman, his collaborator on the underwhelming Twins Ah-nuld sought to flex his comedy muscles once more (and they do exist. They may not be as well-developed as those incredible biceps, but they're definitely there, and of a reasonable size) in this genial action-comedy.

The plot is simple enough - John Kimble (Schwarzenegger) is a tough Los Angeles cop, who for years has been chasing lank-haired, mummy's boy drug dealer Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson) in an attempt to put him in prison. Crisp, meanwhile, has been trying to track down his wife, who disappeared some years ago, taking his only son and $3 million of his hard-earned drug money with her. After killing an informant who knew the whereabouts of his wife, Crisp is arrested and thrown in gaol by Kimble, thanks to the testimony of the informant's junkie girlfriend, who, unbeknownst to Crisp, had been hiding in a box (as you do) next to the murder scene. Knowing that he is unlikely to stay in prison for long, Kimble must then set off to Astoria, Oregon, to find Crisp's wife in order to retrieve the drug money and get her to testify against him in court. The only problem is, they don't know what she looks like (not a very good detective, Kimble, is he? Working for years on his case but has no idea what the man's wife looks like?!), only that her son is in the kindergarten at Astoria Elementary.

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Teaming up with the always-ravenous Phoebe O'Hara (Pamela Reed), who, as so often happens, was a teacher before joining the LAPD, the pair fly to Oregon with the intention of having Phoebe pose as the new kindergarten teacher in an attempt to discover which child is Crisp's. On the plane, though, the plans go drastically awry as Detective O'Hara attempts to change career yet again - this time aiming to become World Emesis Champion. Time being of the essence, and his partner being unable to be further than 3 feet away from a commode, Kimble must take it upon himself to become the kindergarten teacher, and face his toughest challenge to date - 6 year olds.

Under pressure from the kids and a hugely skeptical headmistress from the get-go, he must find a way to control his class and find out who among his charges is Cullen Crisp Junior. Which, of course, he does, finding time along the way for the wooing of a fellow teacher (Penelope Ann Miller) and a spot of righteous bashing of an abusive father.

While Kindergarten Cop falls well short of the spectacular, it is entertaining enough, and Arnie seems to really enjoy the role, rather than just tolerating the presence of the children, as one might expect. It makes a nice break from him killing everyone in sight, and proves that, when given good material the man from Graz can do comedy. He is aided by a well-judged performance from Pamela Reed as his partner, and kids who aren't the precocious little brats you might fear. The movie does suffer, though, from an entirely uninspiring score from Randy Edelman, which sounds like a generic score you have probably heard in any one of a dozen TV sitcoms, and a plot-twist (if it really deserves such a name) so transparent as to be crystal.

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Director Reitman, the man behind the sublime Ghostbusters shows glimpses of the talent which made that movie so good, but lets himself down by allowing the laughs and the pace drop in the middle of the piece. Murray Salem's screenplay (his one and only, so perhaps not bad for a first-timer) is generally solid, and makes a reasonable attempt at milking laughs from the fish out of water concept of tough-man Schwarzenegger as a teacher, but imbues the children with too much overly cute dialogue. That said, it is well worth watching, particularly if you're an Arnie fan (and if you aren't, what's wrong with you?), though it's unclear who its intended audience is - cop thriller parts aside, it feels like a children's movie, but it's rating (a 12 for the cut UK cinema release, and 15 for the uncut VHS/DVD, perhaps due to the BBFC's intense disliking of head-butts) suggests otherwise.

If anyone were to listen to me, I'd give this film 3 out of 5 Combined Goodness Units.

Ivan Reitman
Cast list:
Arnold Schwarzenegger (John Kimble)
Pamela Reed (Phoebe O'Hara)
Penelope Ann Miller (Joyce Palmieri)