Police Academy was a 1984 comedy film about the hijinks that take place in an unnamed metropolitain city (which just happens to obviously be Toronto, Canada in real life) whose mayor decides to admit any and all applicants to its police academy in the name of increasing diversity. This is a case of art imitating life as the filmmakers, making a derivative 80s sex comedy set on a college campus used a police academy as a filming location (as is custom, given the discipline on campus) and remarked on the unusual people studying there. When told it was a diversity scheme by a lady mayor and that the academy hated it, the germ of an idea was born.
To wit: Lady Mayor says the academy must accept all applicants. She does not however say they have to graduate them all, just admit them - and the instructor, Capt. Harris, is instructed to make life a living hell for them all in at attempt to make them all quit.
The film rapidly spawned a few sequels, and New Line has been trying for years to reboot the series.
The movies, as they are, have a cast of characters making the film less about the story arc of one particular person, but character driven comedy about a veriety of people and their interrelated story arcs.
Steve Guttenberg anchored the very first as Carey Mahoney, a guy whose life is going nowhere fast and who took advantage of his father's police background to get away with a whole series of minor crimes. Nothing particularly criminal, but still illegal - such as responding to an arrogant man's request to park his car in a completely full lot by driving it on two wheels and crashing it between two parked cars when threatened by the manager to "do it!.... or else. And apologize to this man!" While in the station, he befriends a man whose ability to imitate sounds has also landed him in legal trouble (played by Michael Winslow) who demonstrates by grabbing a microphone and scaring the entire staton by imitating very realistic machine gun fire. (Desk Sergeant on phone: "Goddamn it, stop that!!!!! Oh, not you sir.")
The Chief gives him an ultimatum. If he doesn't want to go to jail (as the chief has recognized Mahoney believes he'll never face consequences of his actions otherwise) he can have his arrest, trial and sentence commuted to joining the police academy instead. The stipulation is, he cannot quit. If he quits, he'll land in jail. But they can throw him out. Unbeknownst to Mahoney, the Chief has the Commandant of the Academy agree not to expel him, no matter what. Mahoney agrees thinking he'll get thrown out that very self same morning, but soon finds out that his initial sexual harasments and pranks have done nothing but annoy the instructor, who now has it out for him.
The other memorable characters from the first film include:
Eugene Tackleberry - a psychopathic gun nut who was initially refused entry to the academy for psychological reasons and therefore is working as a security guard at the beginning of the film. Prone to extreme enthusiasm and devotion to duty and the inappropriate use of military jargon (twenty four hour clock, "Affirmative!" and "Negative!" etc.) Every problem has one solution, namely the use of a firearm. And he brings his own, considering the "puny" police weapons issued to be insufficient. One gag has him literally blowing a shooting range target in half with one shot, to which the instructor asks "where did you get this gun?" and Tackleberry gleefully responds: "My mom gave it to me!"
Larvell Jones - a man whose voice talent to imitate everything from gunfire to a running bandsaw provides immediate comic relief and some degree of deus ex machina. The original friend of Carey Mahoney. He's an incredibly laid back man of few words, and the author of one of the funniest gags in the film. Capt. Harris is walking from room to room giggling at the thought of how he's going to make the lives of the recruits hell, when he comes across Jones holding his hands out miming using a joystick while performing a perfect sonic mime of every aspect of playing a video game, from inserting a quarter to the various bits of gameplay. Harris is so genuinely bemused by this completely bizarre performance that his open-mouthed stare of disbelief gets funnier with every passing second. In the second film it is revealed he actually has serious jump kung and the ability to do kung fu, as he perfecly parodies the chop socky soundtrack of a Run Run Shaw film complete with mismatching his own speech to his moving lips.
Moses Hightower - a former florist and a giant of a man (he was played by a former defensive end for the Oakland Raiders) he was finally admitted when the academy abandoned its white-only unofficial policy. Insanely strong and a physical match for any would-be assailant, he was also a kind and gentle soul but not averse to stealing a car, ripping out its front seat to sit in the back, and practice driving so as not to fail out of the Academy. Initially expelled from the Academy, he is readmitted and reinstated after one punch levels a criminal who gets the drop on Harris and Mahoney in the first film's climax.
Commandant Lessard - a bumbling old cop carrying his goldfish in a bowl with him wherever he goes often times. He travels everywhere by golf cart and is the only genuinely likeable member of the Academy staff. In theory in charge of the Academy, he starts and remains a sympathetic character. One incredibly memorable gag has Mahoney hide a prostitute that two other students hire to get revenge on a third (by getting him expelled). Turns out it's in a podium that Lessard is due to give an important speech at, and the prostitute, not realizing what's going on believes Lessard to be the receipient of her services in some kind of bizarre fetish. She dutifully (offscreen) fellates him leading to Lessard giving one of the funniest speeches in history in which his rich baritone warbles, fades and chokes up during the progress of the affair. Mahoney pops his head out to see if the coast is clear afterwards and Lessard sees him, assuming he was the fellator. The only reason Mahoney isn't expelled (which is at the time what he wanted) was that Lessard was too emotionally choked up and angry to even speak to Harris when he finds him to complain. There is a later brick joke worth the price of admission. In later films for one reason or another his Academy is in danger of being closed and the former students rally to save his school for him. It's a touching moment.
There are others, such as would be Latino Lover "George Martin" (Zhorzhe Mar-teen) who turns out to be plain old "George Martin" affecting a fake Latino personality, accident-prone slapstick magnet Fackler, who causes a riot accidentally in the climax of the first film. Leslie Douglas, the slight, pudgy man who joins the Academy to "be a man" after a lifetime of bullying, and let us not forget Hooks, the slight, chubby African American woman with the almost imperceptible voice whose Crowning Moment of Awesome is to literally scream "DON'T MOVE DIRTBAG!" having finally found her assertiveness.
With a budget of under $5 million it went on to make $80+ million, a bona fide hit. The sequels were churned out by formula - a Carry On kind of ensemble cast who played the same characters off each other, would end up on their first assignments, patrolling a beach, and even eventually bumbling their way through Moscow picking up other recruits and memorable characters along the way, including Zed, a one time gang member turned police recruit played by a pre-rehab Bobcat Goldthwait whose hyperkinetic choked screaming added considerable color to the franchise.
In addition to a memorable theme (a jaunty, almost nautical/military snare drum and flute number) it's spawned several cultural references - including a reference to "The Blue Oyster Bar". A recurring gag in a pre-PC time was to have one character or another inadvertently walk in to what turned out to be a muscle leatherman gay sadomasochist bar. Which usually ended up with said person having to literally tango to "El Bimbo" by Jean-Marc Dompierre, played raunchily on tenor saxophone, clearly not by choice. What used to be referred to by a reference to Tom of Finland usually gets labelled with some reference to the Blue Oyster.
It's a 1980s touchstone, the pinnacle of Steve Guttenberg's career, and keeps being hinted at getting rebooted. But they're running out of time, as members of the cast get admittedly too old to play any meaningful characters, and some of the actors having died. It's also unclear in a world of highly militarized police with a cultural zeitgeist of fetishizing police as warrior anti-heroes whether such a movie could realistically be made again.
But if you find it in a Goodwill or Wal-Mart bargain bin and you haven't seen it, it's well worth the few dollars you'll spend acquiring it.