The Police Academy series tries to get more out of old garbage than the nearest recycling plant. What wasn't funny the first time has precious little chance of being amusing in its third go-round. It's possible, although rare, for a sequel to expand upon what was done in the original, but all Police Academy 3 can offer is a case of arrested development.
To underline the point, the cadets, for reasons too dimwitted to air here, are seen in a climactic chase that has them pursuing speedboats on jet skis. Along the way, they careen into a gargantuan pile of trash bags on a barge. It's a fitting image for everything that has preceded it.
In an interview last year, Steve Guttenberg, who is too talented a comic actor (witness Cocoon) to be stuck with this rubbish, was asked why the Police Academy series has such appeal to young audiences. His theory was that the films - or at least the first one, released in 1984 to much derision and huge grosses - were funnier and better made than the competition.
But Police Academy 3 is sequel-mongering at its worst - 85 minutes of inane repetition of jokes that worked in, or at least were in, the first two movies. This is the kind of movie in which the mere fact that someone is Japanese is hysterically funny. It also rests on the proposition that a comedy can work when it is devoid of flesh-and-blood characters, and even of caricatures.
The cadets in Police Academy 3 simply serve as the carriers of one- dimensional jests. Bubba Smith is back to play the jolly black giant who abuses his strength, David Graf repeats his Vietnam-vet psycho and Leslie Easterbrook returns to brandish her breasts as the gym instructor.
Gene Quintano's awful script abandons the usual us-against-authoritty staple and introduces a new class of cadets who are tutored by the erstwhile deadbeats and misfits from Police Academy. The plot has them trying to ensure that the state will close down another academy rather than theirs. If you can't guess how this turns out, you belong in the next entering class at the police academy.
When the film's director, Jerry Paris, can't think of anything to do, which is most of the time, he throws in a car chase or a slapstick sequence. And his inability to let go of a gag, presumably in an effort to pad the movie to acceptable feature length, is often excruciating.
This kind of movie is critic-proof. But I'd recommend that any adult moviegoer consume something in the range of 80 proof before sitting through it.
POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINING *
Produced by Paul Maslansky, directed by Jerry Paris, written by Gene Quintano, photography by Robert Saad, music by Robert Folk, distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 mins.
Sgt. Mahoney - Steve Guttenberg
Sgt. Hightower - Bubba Smith
Sgt. Tackleberry - David Graf
Sgt. Jones - Michael Winslow
Parents' guide: PG (mild sex)