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Video Review: Kindergarten Cop (1990)

June 24, 2011
  • Dir. Ivan Reitman
  • Released by Universal
  • Written by Murray Salem, Herschel Weingrod, and Timothy Harris
  • Rating: **
Original Laserdicks Review:
High-concept comedy in a family film often results in a collection of trite jokes and overplayed conventions, but when a fish-out-of-water action star is added to the mix, the results are almost uniformly disastrous. The early 1990s provided countless clunky kid-friendly comedies and beefcakesploitation flicks, but the movies that tried to be both at the same time, such as the horrendous Suburban Commando, were especially worthy of contempt. However, if one film nearly managed to find a stable formula for this conceit, it was Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop.
A movie popular enough to spawn plenty of imitators (including more recent idiot flicks such as 2005’s The Pacifier, with Vin Diesel filling in the muscle man role), Kindergarten Cop hit theaters the same year as another overrated Arnold Schwarzenegger picture, Total Recall, around the peak of his career (Terminator 2: Judgment Day would arrive a year later). Schwarzenegger had worked with Reitman before on another comedy, 1988’s Twins, and they would subsequently team up for a spiritual sequel to Twins, 1994’s Junior (not counting a cameo in the previous year’s Dave).
Reitman’s own filmography is fairly inconsistent, with Ghostbusters standing out as his greatest directorial achievement by far. Still, as the producer of 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House and 1981’s Heavy Metal, the man deserves some credit as a comedic filmmaker. Even if Kindergarten Cop is a rather routine comedy of its time (especially resembling other family-oriented comedies from Universal in the early 1990s), Reitman still gives a potentially lame concept as much entertainment value as possible. Even so, the movie is doomed to not gel, no matter how hard everyone tries.
Schwarzenegger plays a police detective not unlike the one he would play in 1993’s Last Action Hero, i.e. a spoof of his normal persona. However, whereas Jack Slater was a broad caricature, John Kimble (no relation to Richard) is just too close to the typical tough cop archetype to be particularly amusing while on the job. As such, when he is dropped from the seedy city streets into a suburban elementary school setting, his transition into the substitute teacher role is too sudden and forced. He is just too dark at the beginning of the film to be reduced to a eye-rolling, comically-frustrated, impotent cartoon character within seconds of confronting the kindergarten class.
The scenes with Arnold and the kids are indeed funny in their own context. However, the framing story is just too excessive to fit with the charming if predictable time-killer buried within it. The movie cannot be charming escapist fun when drug dealers are on the loose, can it? An edgy, wholesome film is an oxymoron, and Kindergarten Cop never escapes its self-contradictory nature. The hokey Tom Berenger vehicle The Substitute comes off more convincing than this flick, and that’s a rather harsh statement. If only it weren’t true.

From → Film Criticism

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