With Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the big screen in The Last Stand, the Flickering Myth writing team look back at their favourite Arnie movies. Next up, Tori Brazier with 1990’s Kindergarten Cop…
Directed by Ivan Reitman, Kindergarten Cop is a gloriously nineties, bonkers hash of cop-thriller and comedy, starring Hollywood’s favourite Austrian Schwarzenegger in the heart of his unexpected funny-bone flourish (post-Twins, pre-Junior).
Arnie begins in safe territory as hard city detective John Kimble, hot on the trail of drug kingpin and psychopath (handy when those two come together) Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson), all grizzled and Terminator-like in a trench coat and holding a very large gun. Kimble finds himself in unfamiliar terrain however when it emerges that the only person who could testify against the criminal is his ex-wife, about whom the police know nothing save the name of the school her son attends in Astoria, Oregon. When Kimble’s wise-cracking professional partner (and, conveniently, former schoolteacher) O’Hara is taken violently ill, it is left to the macho detective to save the operation and go undercover himself as a teacher at the boy’s school. Cue classroom chaos.
Kindergarten Cop has to be one of the weirder merges of many genres in one movie: a gripping cop chase with detective Arnie, child-based comedy slapstick with fish-out-of-water teacher Arnie, awkward almost-romantic moments alongside a pretty teacher with tender leading-man Arnie, and a strong thread of action-hero Arnie runs throughout as he rescues children/teachers/parents/partners from various mishaps and misfortunes. It cannot be argued that the man doesn’t offer range. He also handles working with both children and animals (in this case, a ferret) with aplomb. The film satisfyingly offers up some classic Arnie movie moments too, such as his “It’s not a TU-mour!” conversation with ‘Morbid Kid’ and a solid Schwarzenegger scream following on from one of the best “Shut ups!” in cinema history.
The characters, stereotypical as some of them may be, also go a long way to ensure that Kindergarten Cop rises above some of the other merely mediocre child-based comedies of the early 1990s. In Pamela Reed as his partner Phoebe O’Hara, Arnie has one of his best co-stars as she goes completely against the grain of actresses usually found in a Schwarzenegger movie, and equally actors usually found as the other half of a crime-fighting duo. Her flippancy and double act with Kimble are both delightfully refreshing. Many of the children are also given characteristics in addition to Crisp, Jr. and ‘Morbid Kid’, as we have ‘Fat Kid’ who eats everyone else’s lunches, the kid who is extremely vocal about his knowledge of the reproductive system, and ‘Little Princess’, who refuses to be one of Kimble’s “deputy trainees”. In addition, it is always nice to see a man, drugs baron or no, who will still listen to what his mother tells him, particularly when she is as overbearing and nasty as Eleanor Crisp (Carroll Baker), and who will go to the trouble of ensuring that they maintain matching hairdos.
Kindergarten Cop can also teach its viewers valuable lessons: for example, one should never trust a man with a ‘flicky’ fringe or an alliterative name. This is also the film in which I first came across the Gettysburg address, and in which I learned perhaps the most important lesson of all – which has stayed with me ever since- that of “stranger danger”.