Running time: 1h 51min
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Murray Salem (story), Herschel Weingrod (screenplay), Timothy Harris (screenplay)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed
In 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, having appeared in action films such as Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Terminator (1984), and Predator (1987). He had also branched out into comedy with Twins (1988), and, some would say, also Commando (1985), which I have already reviewed. Kindergarten Cop is a family-friendly affair in which John Kimble (Arnold) has to work undercover as a kindergarten teacher in pursuit of a dangerous criminal. Of course, when you put the tough guy with a funny accent in the middle of tiny humans, hijinks will ensue.
When I first saw Kindergarten Cop a few years back, I quite liked it. It seemed like a good enough action film with some great comedic moments. Admittedly, I was under the influence at the time. Now, having seen it recently again, I must say that my somewhat high opinion of it has waned. It is still decent, with some good to great moments, but the script, the performances, and the mismatched tone drag it down.
Child actors are always a huge gamble, and they are absolutely horrid in Kindergarten Cop. The adults are not great, either — Arnold is pretty funny as John Kimble, though. But I suppose, since this is almost a farce, the quality of the performances does not matter as much as it might otherwise, if it were a serious film trying to tackle serious issues in a serious manner. This film is decidedly not serious, at all. For every “it’s not a tumor” and “boys have a penis, girls have a vagina”, there are multiple jokes and scenes that just come off badly, and not in the good bad kind of way. The music accentuates the cheesiness to almost unbearable levels, at least towards the end. Blergh.
I think that Arnold, while not being a good actor, can be great in some roles (e.g. as the terminator, or as an ultra macho steroid monster). I also think that he has great comedic timing, delivery, and screen presence, which work to his favor in the multiple one-liners he delivers during his career. Therefore, he does fit like a glove in a comedy/action film like this, and he is not at fault for it not being better — in fact, he might be the sole reason this film is still somewhat watchable 32 years after it was released; pretty much all the good scenes are carried by him.
The script is just an excuse to get Arnold in the kindergarten, and I suppose it does not need to be much more than that. Still, with some changes the film could have been much better (e.g. that ending needs to be aborted, and the romance with Penelope Ann Miller could be cut). Then again, the film is primarily made for children; its faults are not as drastic as I might make them sound. It can still be enjoyed by adults as well as kids, at least if they like Arnold. Just do not go into it sober if possible.
Ivan Reitman, who famously directed Ghostbusters (1984) and Twins before this, probably bares some blame for how the movie turned out, but how much exactly of the problems (especially with the tone) can be attributed to him I do not know. However, as I do not have a high opinion of Twins or the weirdly topical Junior (1994), which were both directed by Reitman and starred Arnold, it does not speak favorably for Reitman. It must be noted that I barely remember those two films, but that might be for the better. In 1996 Arnold decided to appear in yet another comedy, the absolutely terrible Jingle All the Way, which I thought was garbage even as a child, but this time Reitman was not the director. Out of these comedic films, Kindergarten Cop is clearly the best, in my opinion.
Despite my negative tone in this review, I will reiterate that I do not think that Kindergarten Cop is bad. The good moments are worthy of one watch, maybe even more than that. As a fan of Arnold’s earlier work, I think Kindergarten Cop is not the worst of the bunch by any means — though, if we stretch the definition of comedy, Commando and Last Action Hero (1993) might be better in that genre. As an additional bonus, Kindergarten Cop is most definitely a more entertaining film than The Kindergarten Teacher (2018).
Rating: 6.0 / 10
Times I had seen this film prior to this viewing: 1
Would I want to rewatch this film? It is possible