1987 in Film – Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol

Release Date: April 3rd
Box Office: $28,061,343

Here we go again.

Right, this is the fourth one. There’s only so much you can write about Steve Guttenberg and his pals sticking it to the man. Apparently there’s at least four films worth to be made of that, because this is the last film to feature Mahoney.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves.

After their last escapades, the Police Academy team are out and about doing police stuff. Commandant Lassard comes up with a new idea, Citizens on Patrol or C.O.P.S.

Seriously though. At this stage, what’s the point? It’s the same characters running through the motions doing essentially the same jokes.

Having a new bunch of trainees does shake things up a little, despite a couple of cultural stereotypes descending a little too much into xenophobia. And it’s not like they’d be coming into the film series and replacing the original cast like some kind of soft reboot of the series. Only new guy House would return again in the series.

The big cast news (as it were) was the return of Captain Harris the Police Academy films. Not seen since the first film, he returned to replace Lt Mouser in the idiot authority figure role. Mouser left due to the actor due to a serious back injury but given the characters are essentially the same it’s not a major change to the series. No, both of them were there to be the authority figure that Mahoney sticks it to.

The other (retrospective) big casting was Sharon Stone in an early role as a Mahoney love interest. It’s not exactly the most stretching character but even then you can tell that she’s too good for this kind of stuff.

Most of the cast are too good for this, to be honest. But, to be fair to them at least it was a regular gig. The Police Academy series had been churned out every year for fours years in a row at this stage although by now the returns were clearly diminishing. Thankfully the series came along at the right time to be propped up by the expanding VHS rental market, so the financial reasons for continuing the series were there.

Artistically, the reasons for continuing were tenuous at best. If the comparison to the films is the Carry On series then it’s at that early to mid 70s period when it became more about ticking boxes and a pay day for the cast. You can understand someone like Gutenberg making the decision to move on but not everyone else is getting in box office hits. For someone like Denis Graf as Tackleberry this is probably paying the mortgage.

Citizens on Patrolthen is an obligation. A way to pay the bills and fill a gap in a release schedule. It’s hardly the best in the series and far from the worst. At best it’s a comfort blanket, something family to wrap around yourself as Jones makes some funny noises and Harris is the punchline of several pranks.

The film ends with Mahoney disappearing off into the sunset in a hot air balloon leaving everyone else behind. This essentially makes the film a metaphor for Guttenberg’s career up to this point, and is probably the best reason for it to exist.

See you next year!

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