Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic!
(Reading writing ‘rithmetic)
Too much homework makes me sick
(Too much homework makes me sick!)
When it’s time to pass the test
(When it’s time to pass the test)
Kindergarten is the best
(Kindergarten is the best!)
I regarded Kindergarten Cop as a forgettable late-era Ivan Reitman/Arnold Schwarzenegger collaboration like Twins and Junior, but perhaps because we missed Total Recall and The Running Man, the kids were semi-interested—enough to actually amble down to the theater and check it out. (And as forgettable as it was, I always remembered the chant, and have considered the approach of handling mobs of children with strict police discipline a winner.)
It was a bit of a box office disappointment, taking in substantially less at the box office than the previous outing, Twins, and finishing only 10th for the year, under the also somewhat disappointing Total Recall (which finished 7th). Schwarzenegger blamed this on the movie’s violence. Upon reviewing, though, it seems to me that Reitman was trying to recapture the magic of Ghostbusters, which successfully blended comedy with the sci-fi/SFX-extravaganza by blending comedy—the RomCom, even—with the cop movie.
What’s weird is: this movie holds up shockingly well. I might even enjoy it more now. Sometimes when a movie is better (or worse) in retrospect it’s because you’ve changed. Other times, it’s because, well, times have changed. And I think that’s the case here. The clichés of the ’80s cop flick were so well-established (much like those of the jungle-rescue, as seen in Predator) I think it was easy to dismiss them even when very well done. And here, it’s not so much that they’re well done as they are comically absurd—and deliberately so! Kimble (Arnold) is basically Venkman—Bill Murray’s character in Ghostbusters.
He’s a real cop, sure, unlike Murray’s faux-scientist, but his complete disregard for anything like procedure and his complete lack of concern for the consequences of his action when dealing with The Bad Guys (and you always know who they are!) is really in the same mold. Pamela Reed, in a typically great turns as his erstwhile partner, actually comes off as more by-the-book (though not at all uptight, saving us from another cliché). The damsel-in-distress is Penelope Ann Miller, with a red herring from Cathy Moriarty (got me this time, too), and her son (the now middle-aged Joseph and Christian Cousins) provides a good vehicle for our musclebound Austrian to demonstrate his softer side. (To say nothing of the mob of children.)
And, you know what? He’s really good! He can speak about 10-times clearer than he did in Predator, which was only 3 years earlier, indicating to me that, even though wildly successful, he was working his ass off to expand his range. He can actually make with the funny, beyond (very) short quips. He has great chemistry with the kids; in a way, the “love story” is about him and the children, and there’s enough there to hang your hat on about the decision to work a career (a sometimes awful career like vice cop) versus appreciating your family in a place that’s a lot less seedy. (In this case, Astoria, Oregon, home of The Goonies.)
The kids were pleased, and I was surprised. Reitman was like that: Under even the least of his movies, there tended to be a lot of heart and soul, to say nothing of professionalism. I’m talking about him like he’s dead and not working on a sequel to Twins called Triplets (with Eddie Murphy as the genetic match to Schwarzenneger and Danny Devito).
Anyway, worth a second look.