Moving from the more exotic world of film festivals, let's look at some Hollywood potboilers, specifically, Police Academy II: Their First Assignment and Porky's Revenge. Both style themselves as raunchy comedies, both are sequels to successful films, in both cases the people who made the originals have moved on. Both movies also flaunt an anti-authoritarian attitude, which is much more interesting in the case of Police Academy II, since, after all, its heros are, of necessity, authority figures. Wacky, irresponsible police academy candidates are one thing. Wacky, irresponsible police officers are another. However, introspection is hardly a feature of this kind of film, so don't expect that Police Academy II has much to say about this issue. You might get some private amusement by bearing it in mind while watching the film, though.
In Police Academy II, the recent graduates are assigned to a disaster area of a precinct in the unlikely hope of cleaning it up. Villainous lieutenant Art Metrano is trying to oust good captain Howard Hesseman, and nothing can save him except the serendipitous outcomes of our heros' incompetencies. In Porky's Revenge, the kids are trying to win the state basketball championship and get the coach out of hock with Porky, who has set up his den of iniquity on a riverboat. Neither plot is of any value whatsoever. Both films use their stories to hang set piece comic bits off of, and laden it with totally extraneous subplots. The writers seem to have forgotten how much comic mileage can be gotten out of sticking to a single story.
The major question, of course, is, how funny are these movies? Almost any sin can be forgiven a comedy if it's funny enough. Police Academy II is funny enough. Porky's Revenge isn't. Police Academy II (hereafter referred to as PA, for brevity's sake) is peppered with amusing jokes and has some nice visual comedy. Porky's Revenge (PR, which is the film's only hope of making money), is lacking in comic invention. It tries to rerun slight variations of routines from the first two films, with little success. Little original material is used, and what there is isn't very good. In addition, PR, following somewhat in the footsteps of Porky's II, tries to interpolate some supposedly heartwarming do-gooder stuff. It doesn't wash. PR already seems interminable, so the addition of this totally unamusing material whose only purpose seems to be to "elevate" the moral tone of the film just adds to the tedium.
As stated earlier, both films try to trade on a loose attitude of disrespect towards authority. PA has problems, since two of its authority figures, the precinct captain and his brother, the head of the police academy, are nice guys, and all of our wild and crazy heros are authority figures themselves. PA proceeds in blind disregard for these facts. PR has troubles, too, as some of the old foes are rehabilitated, requiring new foils. These new characters are pallid and uninteresting. Only Porky himself is any real challenge, and the film is unable to extract laughs from the prospect that he might actually shoot the kids in the head.
An interesting phenomena about these type of films is that they want to give the impression that they're wild, that anything goes, and yet, in many ways they are extremely timid. They go far out of their way to avoid giving offense to feminists (PA much more than PR, but that film, also), blacks, homosexuals, Jews, Hispanics, old people, and almost all other minorities. This may give them fewer problems with protests, but it also leaves them with fewer targets for satire. They only attack the easy ones that can't fight back, like intellectuals, parents, teachers, and politicians. Most of the jokes in both films involve making a member of one of these safe groups look silly, or sex or bathroom humor. Some people may think this is daring (such as the ten year olds at the showing of PR I saw), but it doesn't impress me much. The great satirists have no fear. Mel Brooks attacks almost anyone, as does Richard Pryor. Stanley Kubrick satirized the eggheads and politicians in Dr. Strangelove, but more common people came in for their share of jabs in that film, too. Essentially, the makers of PR and PA don't attack a single target that isn't completely safe. They take no chances at all, using only the same kind of material which has been used a dozen times before. All controversy has already been removed. Too often, all laughter has, too.
As raunchy comedies go, PA isn't bad. The recruits trigger-happy destruction of a store is quite amusing. Steve Guttenburg again shows a nice light touch, though he has rather less to do in the sequel. The other returning characters don't add much. Howard Hesseman's character is too much a good guy to get laughs in this type of film. Some of the other new characters have funny moments. For those with a taste for this sort of film, Police Academy II probably won't disappoint you.
PR isn't really worth the trouble. The jokes aren't very funny, it isn't as raunchy as it would like you to think (or thinks itself to be, for that matter), and there isn't a shred of originality. None of the actors add anything to their characters, anything worth having, at least, and the "kids" are getting more than a little long in the tooth for these roles. The ultimate destruction of Porky's riverboat is a decided anti-climax. Children who haven't seen many films of this type might get some naughty giggles out of it, but I can't see this film in any way contributing to the upbringing of a child, so parents have no good excuse for letting them go see it. Porky's Revenge is a good one to skip.
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