Back-To-School Month: "Kindergarten Cop" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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Back-To-School Month: "Kindergarten Cop" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 111 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 21, 1990
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime

"Kindergarten Cop" is undoubtedly one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most successful comedy films. Although he plays the role of a brutish, tough cop, he is quickly put into a situation where he is completely out of his element, ensuring hilarity ensues. Even though the storyline follows a theme of crime and justice, the film clearly showcases the comedic aspects of the plot—with a good dose of romance thrown in for good measure.

Detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his partner, Detective Phoebe O'Hara (Pamela Reed), are assigned to a case where they are responsible for catching drug dealer Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson). Crisp's wife (Penelope Ann Miller) and young son (Christian and Joseph Cousins) have taken on new identifies and are running from him; Kimble knows that Crisp is determined to find them and get his son back. He and O'Hara decide that the best way to find Crisp is to find and follow the ex-wife and son.

They track the two down to a small town in Oregon where Crisp's ex-wife has taken on a new name, Joyce Palmieri, and is working as a teacher in the elementary school her son Dominic attends. Arrangements are made for O'Hara to go undercover as the kindergarten teacher in the school, but she comes down with a stomach bug and Kimble winds up taking over.

At this point, the whole storyline about finding Crisp so he can be arrested for murdering an informant as well as a host of other charges actually takes a back seat, and the challenge Kimble faces as he tries to tame a class of kindergarten students and the budding romance between him and Joyce becomes the main plot.

Kimble, who has taken down the worst of the worst criminals without any problem at all, is confounded by his new charges. He tries yelling, begging, and making deals with the kindergarten students to no avail. Just when he is about ready to give up, O'Hara gives him some well-placed advice.

The next day at school, Kimble begins to treat the students as if they were trainees at a police academy, complete with whistles and marches, and it works like a charm. Even the principal, Miss Schlowski (Linda Hunt), is amazed, and she quickly realizes that Kimble has found his true calling.

As he perfects the art of corralling kindergarten children, he also begins to fall for the woman he is watching, and she develops feelings for him as well. That begins to fall apart, however, when Crisp finds her and rolls into town with his mother (Carroll Baker) in tow. Mama Crisp soon discovers that Kimble is not really who he says he is. After several nail-biting scenes where Crisp almost manages to get away with his son, good wins out over evil and the romance between Kimble and Joyce is rekindled.

Although "Kindergarten Cop" was given mixed reviews by the critics, it was ultimately a success. It wound up winning four awards, including a Kids' Choice Award and two Young Artist awards, and it grossed more than $200 million globally. It premiered in 1990, but it continues to be run sporadically on television and subscription movie channels.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's physical stature and previous rough-and-tough roles in movies such as the "Terminator" franchise, "Conan the Barbarian," and "Predator" set him up perfectly for "Kindergarten Cop." The stark contrast between him and the children he is tasked with taking care of creates a host of hilarious situations. Viewers can actually watch the tough guy melt as he opens up his heart and mind to the kindergarten students and the woman he is charged with following. This film was also a defining moment for Schwarzenegger, as it was his first truly successful move from action and crime films into comedy and romance.

Pamela Reed was perfectly cast as Kimble's partner. Her gruff exterior, love for good food, and mellow nature make her a good cop as well as a sister figure to Kimble. Reed came into "Kindergarten Cop" with a lengthy acting resume that included recurring roles on hit shows such as "Jericho" and "Parks and Recreation," and supporting roles in successful films such as "Proof of Life" and "Junior."

"Kindergarten Cop" is one of those rare films that manages to maintain three distinct plots—the crime story involving Crisp, the romance between Kimble and Joyce, and Kimble's new role as a kindergarten teacher—without creating any ambiguity or muddying the waters. The best part of the movie, however, is watching Kimble being thrust into the role of a teacher, and it gives new meaning to the old saying that kids say the craziest things. This is a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of your seat and is a must-see movie for anyone who wants to see Arnold Schwarzenegger do comedy and romance—and do them well.

Rating: 3 out of 5