Synopsis: A tough cop is given his most difficult assignment: masquerade as a kindergarten teacher in order to find the wife and child of a drug dealer.
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Carroll Baker, Richard Tyson
Director: Ivan Reitman
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: There are some movies from childhood that just can’t hold up as they grow older. I can think of numerous films from my youth that I was rabid over but when I revisit them know I squirm with embarrassment when I think how into them I used to be. So when Kindergarten Cop came up on a cable guide I scheduled it to record with some trepidation. After all, here was a film I vividly remember seeing in the theater (Yorktown 3), renting, (Mr. Movies) and owning a tattered VHS copy of. Having long since jettisoned most of my VHS films I figured it was time to take a trip down memory lane.
Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying Kindergarten Cop a lot more as an adult than I did as a ten-year-old. Yeah, its plot is filled with holes the size of craters and it has about six endings but what it has going for it is a winning charm and some squeaky clean fun that movies today just can duplicate. Even more, the film was a high water mark for Schwarzenegger. It wasn’t his first foray into comedy (that would be 1988’s Twins) nor would it be his last (although Junior and Jingle All The Way are probably best forgotten) but Schwarzenegger ably handles the comedy and kids with equal measure. He knows how to play it straight and let the script speak for itself.
Doing some research for this review, it’s interesting to note that Schwarzenegger wasn’t the first choice for the detective that goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to weed out the child of a drug dealer awaiting trial. From the sound of it, Schwarzenegger was actually the fourth choice. Bill Murray, Patrick Swayze, and Danny DeVito were first offered the role but turned it down. I can’t really see Murrary or DeVito playing this gruff tough-guy role but Swayze would have been a nice fit too but in a totally different way..
As it stands, Schwarzenegger is a solid choice and parlays his action hero image well to make the character not merely a sight gag as he is swarmed by little ones on his first day of work. I’m sure the role was more tailored for him when he came on board and that makes the film work better at the end of the day. Having worked together on Twins, Schwarzenegger and director Reitman continue their collaboration here with Reitman knowing enough to keep the movie going at a nice clip.
Supporting players Hunt and Miller make the best impressions as, respectively, the principal and a teacher in the school where Schwarzenegger goes undercover. Oscar winner Hunt has always been an interesting face to watch and her scenes with Schwarzenegger can be a real hoot. Miller has an Elisabeth Shue glow about her for much of the movie, making it easy to see why she catches Schwarzenegger’s eye. Reed has some nice moments as Schwarzenegger’s food obsessed partner and Cathy Moriarty is wisely cast but soon forgotten as a mother who may be Schwarzenegger’s target. The baddies too are ably played by Baker as a Ma Barker-esque dragon lady who looks out for her drug/killer son (Tyson).
Kindergarten Cop received a lot of flack when it first came out because, though rated PG-13, many parents took their children to it expecting a family friendly film. Unfortunately, they should have paid attention to the rating as the film has some fairly violent scenes with guns, dead bodies, and just general kids-in-danger moments. You can’t totally fault the film for parents not heeding the warnings of the rating system but perhaps Reitman would have edited the film differently if he looked at it now.
I was relieved that Kindergarten Cop avoided the clunky growing pains than many of its peers have suffered throughout the years. It was made at a time when comedies had a nice sheen to them and it creates a bit of a timeless look to the film without dating it horribly. At nearly two hours, the film didn’t have a lot of drag to it thanks to Reitman’s good timing and Schwarzenegger’s welcome comedic performance. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to kindergarten, consider having a watch of this one and reclaim a bit of your youth.