Simon Brew Jun 20, 2017Steve Guttenberg
headlines what's supposed to be a reunion of the Police Academy
cast. Life doesn't always work out as promised, though...
To the nearest $1m, the final Police Academy
movie – Police Academy: Mission To Moscow
– took a tidy $1m at the box office. It brought to a tragic end a movie franchise that had delighted surely a few people in its latter years, and certain given the office photocopiers a workout, as jokes were religiously recycled en masse. The Hangover series would put a better gloss on the recycling jokes schtick, and repeat the trick across its sequels many years later, to better commercial return.
See related Dunkirk
: where you can see the IMAX preview in the UK Christopher Nolan
: filming started, cast confirmed Dunkirk
: set video shows scale of Christopher Nolan
’s new film
See also: What went wrong with Police Academy: Mission To Moscow
producer Paul Maslansky
– who also tried to turn Ski Patrol
into a series, foiled by the fact that barely anyone went to see the first and only one – has talked about rebooting Police Academy
since. Most of the original cast are still with us, too, save for the brilliant David Graf
(Tackleberry), Bubba Smith
(Hightower), and George Gaynes
(Commandant Lassard). Basically, a chunk of the core ensemble are available, and have been waiting for the call to return for a fresh Police Academy
adventure. But the call, unfortunately, never came.
This is a film that centres on Steve Guttenberg
, a washed-up movie star of the 90s who’s taken on a bug movie for $10,000. Going by the name of Colton West, we learn that he’s been the star of such movie franchises as Crazy Cops and Red Robot, and I know even typing this that nobody really cares. Instead, you’ve been drawn to this film for the same reason I was: it’s the cast of the Police Academy
movies, just in a sort-of-horror film. Asda – and other supermarkets selling DVDs are available – had this next to Star Wars
: Rogue One
in my local store. One coin toss later, and Rogue One
It turns out, of course, that it’s a dose of trash that’s been doing the rounds for a little while. Spun out
of the Sharknado series, Lavalantula
was first shown on Syfy in the Us back in 2015, and I’ve barely found mention of it since. That notwithstanding, I armed myself with some of those new strawberry and vanilla Calippos (6/10 from me for them), and settled in.
Purveyors of The Asylum
and Syfy attempts to recreate the feel of B-movies will know what they’re getting here. A perfunctory bit of plot, to get to some special effects that have been produced with second hand computers bought off Ilm. That’s less snooty than it sounds, mind. Lavalantula
, a word that only seven of the 49 human beings who have ever tried managed to pronounce correctly the first time, is a solid audit as to what $20,000 or so’s worth of effects can buy you. Some lava and half-decent spiders is the answer. Given that London Has Fallen, for one, cost $105m to make and had effects that looked like Call Of Duty a generation back, Lavathingy does offer a decent recent in that sense. Don’t get carried away and start giving it awards or anything, though.
Thing is, it’s easy to look down on micro budget stuff like this. Yet who knows where the next big filmmaker is going to come from? Jennifer Yuh Nelson
cut her teeth on the basic animated movies that used to go straight to bargain stores, and now she’s one of the highest grossing female directors of all time, courtesy of the Kung Fu Panda
series. The late Jonathan Demme
was one of many schooled by the low budget ways of Roger Corman
– a model that Jason Blum
has expanded on for his Blumhouse outfit, offering filmmakers low budgets in exchange for final cut – and whilst The Asylum
has lower ambitions, everyone needs a break, right?
In this case, it’s director Mike Mendez
, who worked on the likes of NCIS and CSI before giving the world Big Ass Spider! Here, he knows the trade off is he has to shoot lots of explanatory conversation scenes to stretch the budget (he does throw in a Raiders Of The Lost Ark
boulder-rip-off at one moment, though, as well as a just on the right side of legal Pirates Of The Caribbean homage), reckoning he has but 10 minutes out of 80 that he can spend on effects. At one stage, he decides to have a man dressed as a spider fight a spider. Sadly, it’s less fun that it sounds.
The other concession to budget is you don’t actually get the cast of Police Academy
for very long. This is less forgivable. Sure, you get shirtless Guttenberg stealing a bus, and in his own way giving us his own spin on Last Action Hero
. His character also needs to reconnect with his son for reasons that are of no human interest. But everyone else? They’re shuttled in for quick cameos. You get them at the start, and then Winslow and Ramsey finally return an hour later. But by then, they’re plotting how to beat the big spiders, and – presumably fearing legal interest – the references to glories old are all but gone.
I can’t be the only person who put the DVD in to hear Michael Winslow
recreate his collection of noises. But we get, what, five minutes with him in all? It’s like a Police Academy
reunion where everyone but Steve Guttenberg
got given the wrong time. There’s the odd concession and acknowledgement of the series elsewhere in the film - “they took out the Blue Oyster. I loved that place,” says pretend Captain Jack Sparrow (really) at one stage – but for Ramsey, Leslie Easterbrook
and Winslow, the DVD packaging may as well provide you with a spotter book, so you can at least tick ‘em off once you see them.
Still, Ralph Garman
is good fun here as the aforementioned Jack Sparrow knock-off, and 24 fans who wonder just what happened to that fella who played Tony Almeida Isn’t Dead Really will get their answer, as Carlos Bernard
duly picks up his cheque. 24: Legacy couldn’t come along quickly enough, though.
On the plus side too, there’s little question that everyone’s in on the gag.
But when you yearn for the film to at least have an equitable number of laughs as a Police Academy
sequel, it’d be fair to say a little alarm has long been going off. By the time the film is directly mirroring and quoting a moment from Jurassic Park
, that old adage of invoke the memory of other, better films at your peril has long been proved.
The cheapest moment, incidentally, and this is a competitive contest, is the Basil Exposition-type Doctor/Professor/scientist character, clambering into a helicopter with the full chopper sound effect going. Only for the camera to leave the fact that the rotors aren’t turning fully in shot.
Yet I think I still want that horror movie with the Police Academy
cast that I was sold. In fact, what I think what I’d like to see now is a big screen version of the PlayStation 4 game Until Dawn, but with Police Academy
characters, to bring a bit of a choose your own adventure element to the fun. Plus, then you get to replay it, changing just a few plot elements next time you play, accurately reflecting one of the core components of the Police Academy
Guttenberg has since followed this up with a sequel, 2 Lava 2 Tarantula, where only two Police Academy
alumni joined him. Another film is coming. But Lavalantula
: Tokyo Drift is surely just a meeting and a beermat’s worth of plot away, where all of his co-stars will have deserted him, ready to rejoin him for the fourth film in the series. That’s how this stuff work, right? And then Statham will turn up two films later? Right?