Also known as: A Brother’s Justice, Skate or Die (alternate titles), Downtown Hero (Denmark), Skate Rider (France), California Skate (Italy) Release Date: January 13th, 1989 Directed by: Graeme Clifford Written by: Michael Tolkin Music by: Jay Ferguson Cast: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Richard Herd, Le Tuan, Min Luong, Ed Lauter, Tony Hawk
Gladden Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes
“I guess we all do unexpected things sometimes, don’t we?” – Brian Kelly
This is one of those ’80s films I’m not totally nostalgic for. I did see it back then and liked it but I never really revisited it beyond the early ’90s. Truthfully, it didn’t have the lasting power, even though it had some dope skateboarding stunts.
Gleaming the Cube is very much an ’80s teen drama in the most derivative and cliche way possible. It stars Christian Slater but it doesn’t measure up to any of his better films from the era: Heathers, Pump Up the Volume, The Legend of Billie Jean, etc.
The story sees a young skater trying to solve the mystery of his adopted Vietnamese brother’s death, which at first was made to look like a suicide. It’s a coming of age story where a slacker kid must grow up and face the cruelty of adulthood while working with the cops and his gang of skater friends, one of which is skating legend Tony Hawk.
It’s a decent movie but it is forgettable. It doesn’t have anything to really make it stand out. While the skateboarding element was cool, it wasn’t anything new in teen movies by the time 1989 rolled around. In fact, it kind of hurts the film, as it feels like it should be categorized with other teen extreme sports schlock like BMX Bandits, Rad or Brat Patrol. While those were movies about BMX bikes, the narrative and style is still pretty consistent.
Slater still displayed some good acting chops for his age and I’m sure this only helped him get to where he needed to be, as he entered the ’90s, where he rose to being a much bigger star for awhile.
As a kid, no comedies brought me as much replayable joy as the Police Academy films. Yes, they are cheesy and the humor is crude and low brow with slapstick thrown in but to a kid in the 1980s, that is what I liked. And it may have been the first film where I saw boobs.
Still to this day, I enjoy it. And even though this comedy method is generally used poorly in most modern films, it worked in these movies and for the time they were current.
This series spawned a new movie every spring from 1984 through 1989 and then gave us an unwatchable seventh film in 1994. Up until the end though, this was a great series. I’m not sure how new audiences would take to them today but from 1984 to 1989, the Police Academy franchise was adored by fans even if it was generally panned by critics.
Police Academy (1984):
Release Date: March 23rd, 1984 Directed by: Hugh Wilson Written by: Neal Israel, Pat Proft, Hugh Wilson Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, George Gaynes, Donovan Scott, Michael Winslow, Andrew Rubin, David Graf, Bruce Mahler, Marion Ramsey, Brant von Hoffman, Scott Thomson, G.W. Bailey, Leslie Easterbrook, George R. Robertson, Debralee Scott, Doug Lennox, Georgina Spelvin, Ted Ross
The Ladd Company, Warner Bros. Pictures, 96 Minutes
“Good speech.” – Carey Mahoney
The first film in the series introduces us to many of the characters we will see over the course of several films. Most importantly, this movie gave the world the comedic talents of Steve Guttenberg. Guttenberg’s Sgt. Carey Mahoney would be the central character of these films over the first four installments.
We also got to meet Michael Winslow’s Larvell Jones, Bubba Smith’s Moses Hightower, David Graf’s Eugene Tackleberry, Leslie Easterbrook’s Sgt. Callahan, Marion Ramsey’s Sgt. Hooks, G.W. Bailey’s Lt. Harris and George Gaynes’ iconic Commandant Eric Lassard. Other major characters would come in other films but these characters lasted over most of the series and each one of them are memorable and lovable in their own way. The Police Academy series is an example of large ensemble comedies done right.
This film in the series had the most overall narrative and is considered by most to be the best film. Later films in the series were full of long-running jokes chaining back to this film, as well as being structured by a series of gags and funny bits that were only lightly threaded together by an actual plot. This one was an adult comedy, full of a large cast of kooky characters – in many ways it was similar in style to Slap Shot, Caddyshack and in some regards, MASH. The great use of this formula in Police Academy also inspired a slew of knock-off films throughout the mid 80s.
The plot is about a bunch of screw ups who join the Police Academy after the mayor declares that anyone can join the academy and be given a fair shot. It concludes with a sequence that sees these screw ups go into the field with minimal training and finding themselves in the middle of a downtown riot.
As stupid and absurd as this film can be, it does create a solid sense of camaraderie among the characters. You care about them, their relationships with one another and the crazy situations they find themselves in. This is why this movie became a hit and why this series lasted for seven pictures. You wanted to see more of these people and their antics.
Police Academy was a huge hit at the time and deservedly so. Each subsequent film dropped of a bit in success but they all still did pretty well through the 80s.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985):
Release Date: March 29th, 1985 Directed by: Jerry Paris Written by: Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Bruce Mahler, Colleen Camp, Art Metrano, Marion Ramsey, Howard Hesseman, George Gaynes, Lance Kinsey, George R. Robertson, Tim Kazurinsky, Bobcat Goldthwait, Rich Hall
The Ladd Company, Warner Bros. Pictures, 87 Minutes
“Don’t make me flare my nostrils!” – Zed
The first sequel quickly followed the original film.
In this one, we see our beloved officers take their first job at a precinct ran by Howard Hesseman’s Pete Lassard, younger brother to Commandant Lassard. Also, Lt. Harris is replaced as the main antagonist by Art Metrano’s Lt. Mauser. This creates a lot of debate between Police Academy fans as to who was the better series antagonist: Harris or Mauser. I will say that they are both awesome.
We are also introduced to Lance Kinsey’s Lt. Proctor, who went on to become one of the funniest and most iconic idiots in cinema history. This is also the first of three films featuring Bobcat Goldthwait as Zed and Tim Kazurinsky as Sweetchuck. Zed is the big villain of the film and he is fantastic. He is also Goldthwait’s most recognizable character and plays much better as a goofy bad guy in this film than as a cop in the later ones.
This movie is still a great continuation of the Police Academy series and expands on the characters enough to where you enjoy seeing them growing up and taking on new roles.
Also, the big finale at the abandoned zoo was really cool. It was an awesome location for the gang’s hideout.
Police Academy 3: Back In Training (1986):
Release Date: March 21st, 1986 Directed by: Jerry Paris Written by: Gene Quintano Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook, Art Metrano, Tim Kazurinsky, Bobcat Goldthwait, George Gaynes, Bruce Mahler, Lance Kinsey, Scott Thomson, Brant von Hoffman, Debralee Scott, Brian Tochi, George R. Robertson, Ed Nelson
Warner Bros. Pictures, 83 Minutes
“Mahoney must think he’s as dumb as we are.” – Captain Proctor
The third film rehashes the formula of the first Police Academy but doesn’t do it as well.
Here we have a new class of cadets joining the academy but now the cadets from the original film are there to train them. It is a passing of the torch to a new generation but the new generation didn’t give us many new characters to sink our teeth into. Zed and Sweetchuck return and become cops in this one but they are the brightest spot by far of the new cast of recruits.
The film is still funny, it employs a lot of the same gags and it ends with a pretty decent water action sequence for a film that is a low budget 80s comedy.
The main plot focuses on two academies going head-to-head in a competition, as the worst of the two is going to be shutdown due to budget cuts. The evil academy is ran by Mauser from the previous film. Mauser and Proctor, when together, are comedy gold.
Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol (1987):
Release Date: April 3rd, 1987 Directed by: Jim Drake Written by: Gene Quintano Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, David Graf, Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook, Sharon Stone, Colleen Camp, Tim Kazurinsky, Bobcat Goldthwait, George Gaynes, G.W. Bailey, Lance Kinsey, George R. Robertson, Brian Tochi, Scott Thomson, Billie Bird, David Spade, Brian Backer, Tab Thacker, Corinne Bohrer, Tony Hawk, Randall “Tex” Cobb
Warner Bros. Pictures, 88 Minutes
“Don’t touch those! Don’t you ever touch my balls without asking!” – Captain Harris
In an effort to not completely redo the plots of the first and third movie, this film sees Commandant Lassard start a new program that allows citizens to train at the academy with real police officers in an effort to build up a better relationship with the community. Essentially, it is a rehash of the first and third films but the little twist makes it a bit more interesting.
Billie Bird steals the show here as the elderly Mrs. Feldman. She is a tough as nails, take no shit, bad ass old lady that is the perfect compliment to the big gun-toting maniac that is Sgt. Tackleberry.
Sharon Stone is in this film too but you’ll barely notice. You can also enjoy the small roles played by a young David Spade, Brian Backer and a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo by Tony Hawk.
Also, due to a bad back injury that Art Metrano suffered, Mauser was out of the picture and G.W. Bailey’s Capt. Harris was brought back as the antagonist of the series. Harris and Proctor together were even better than Mauser and Proctor in the two previous films.
The gags are great, the pranks are awesome and this film embodies the spirit of the installments before it. Unfortunately, it is the last film to star Steve Guttenberg and a drop off in quality over the course of the next three films was a result. We also lost Goldthwait and Kazurinsky after this chapter in the series and they were definitely missed.
The highlight of this movie is the big action sequence at the end, which featured biplanes, hot air balloons and a whole lot of mayhem.