Movies · News

Time to Put Your Money Where Your ‘Police Academy’ Nostalgia Is

The story of the comedy franchise is subject of a new crowd-funded documentary. 
Police Academy
By  · Published on May 24th, 2018

The story of the comedy franchise is subject of a new crowd-funded documentary.

While you wait for the Police Academy franchise to finally be rebooted — probably not with Jordan Peele involved anymore — there’s another project to look to with your nostalgia. Dead Mouse Productions and Cult Screenings UK, the companies behind such documentaries as Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II and the upcoming Pennywise: The Story of IT, are teaming up again for a film about the history and cult fandom of the Police Academy franchise, titled What an Institution! The Story of Police Academy.

The new doc is currently crowdfunding via Indiegogo, and at the time of this writing they’ve already raised a third of their goal. What an Institution! looks to be a combined fandom doc and making-of doc, featuring interviews with cast members of the original film and its sequels, plus behind the scenes footage. The doc will be executive produced by Police Academy creator Paul Maslansky, so it’s as official as it can be, and the intent appears to be a deep exploration into the movies, cartoon, live-action TV series, toys, and the rest of its legacy.

Steve Guttenberg doesn’t seem to have signed on (yet?), but here are some of the franchise staple fan favorites who’ll appear in What an Institution!: Michael Winslow (Jones), Leslie Easterbrook (Callahan), Lance Kinsey (Proctor), and Tim Kazurinsky (Sweetchuck). Plus: Julie Brown (Chloe), Art Metrano (Mauser), Shawn Weatherley (Adams), Donovan Scott (Barbara), Peter Van Norden (Schtulman), and screenwriter Neal Israel, composer Robert Folk, and other off-screen personnel including Maslansky. The Indiegogo page promises more to come, but probably not from the bigger guns like Bobcat Goldthwait, Kim Cattrall, Sharon Stone, Howard Hesseman, Colleen Camp, Claire Forlani, or even David Spade. But how about G.W. Bailey (Harris)? Where’s Marion Ramsey (Hooks)?

As much as I’m curious — having been a fan of the whole movie series as a child — about the story of how a simple (obviously ripped-off from Stripes) comedy premise exploded into such a major property with an iconic theme song and familiar characters, there are a few things I need addressed in a retrospective look at Police Academy in 2018. The biggest is the reckoning with the gay panic humor. Not just the recurring Blue Oyster Bar gag (for which there are t-shirts available as crowdfunding swag) but the numerous homophobic lines. Yes, it’s all product of its time, but it’s worth discussion today. Same goes for the dated sexism, racism, oral sex rape, and a lot of other material. No need to throw the movies into film history jail, but hopefully it won’t be dismissed or defended either. Get the ’80s All Over podcast guys, who’ve been offering essential hindsight reflection on the comedy of the era, to chime in with analysis.

Another topic for discussion, which I assume will be covered given the expanse of the franchise, is how an R-rated comedy evolved into a property for children. That was a normal thing in the ’80s, when kids more easily saw R-rated movies but also a lot of R-rated movies spawned animated series and action figures. The makers of What an Institution! address the topic as it applied to the RoboCop franchise in their new film RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop, although there it seems more a conversation about Orion Pictures being desperate for moneymaking opportunities. For Police Academy it may have been more that Warner Bros. realized they could and didn’t stop to consider whether or not they should.

I had no idea that Police Academy is considered a cult classic or that it had enough loyal fans today to warrant a documentary like What an Institution!, but the franchise has certainly been a significant enough part of pop culture. And like most of the properties Dead Mouse and Cult Screenings cover, there’s continued interest, at least in the industry, for more of this IP. Maslansky may even have hopes that something like What an Institution! will help grease the wheels on the reboot, which he’s also involved with. First we have to see if there’s enough excitement in Police Academy to get the doc about it funded.

Related Topics:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.