Released in 1984, Police Academy was a huge success at the box-office, hence the multiple sequels the film later spawned. Those may have gotten increasingly cartoonish but this first movie was not only funny and charming but it introduced us to one of the catchiest cinematic theme songs ever.
The film, about a group of goofy cadets trying to graduate from the Police Academy, getting up to all sorts of shenanigans along the way, was an ensemble joke-a-minute comedy, sort of like a cross between Animal House and The Naked Gun. Steve Guttenberg is Mahoney, the cocky guy threatened with jail and forced to join the Academy after he is arrested for parking an obnoxious customer's car sideways. He decides to instantly become a nuisance in order to guarantee that he is thrown out but G.W. Bailey's slimy Captain Harris has other plans. The main characters include the tall, super-strong Hightower (Bubba Smith), Michael Winslow's sound-effects maestro Larvell Jones, gun nut Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf), soft-talker Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey), the disaster-prone Douglas Fackler (Bruce Mahler), sexy and stern officer Debbie Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook) and the ever-clueless Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes).
Most of the jokes that became a series tradition stem from this first instalment which introduces us to all the quirky characters and their specific schtick. The whole thing is completely predictable but it's so enjoyably silly throughout that it doesn't really matter: the Blue Oyster Bar, Lassard's compromising speech, Hightower's driving test, all classic gags that hit the mark. What sets this film apart from its lesser, cartoonish sequels is how it keeps a good balance between the jokes and the story. The final act of the film is handled surprisingly seriously and you get to see all those characters come together and tackle a real riot in the streets. Unfortunately, the likes of Tackleberry and Kim Catrall's one-off character never really contribute anything to that ending, except for the latter becoming sort of a damsel in distress. That said, that's a nitpick for an otherwise genuinely entertaining and funny comedy led by a ridiculously likeable cast.
The best in the series by far, Police Academy is very silly and juvenile but in the best of ways. Whether you like the sequels or not, it's hard not to enjoy this first outing which is not only well made and entertaining but keeps the plot solid enough to not let itself devolve into complete farce.
Still a lot of fun.