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A tough cop is given his most difficult assignment: masquerade as a a kindergarten teacher in order to find a drug dealer.
For more about Kindergarten Cop and the Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray release, see Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 8, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Carroll Baker, Cathy Moriarty
Director: Ivan Reitman
» See full cast & crew
Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray Review
The movie? Worth watching on days, nights, weekends, and holidays. The Blu-ray? A party pooper.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 8, 2014
They're six year olds. How much trouble can they be?
Sometimes, a movie just works. Sometimes, it really doesn't need a deep story or meaningful themes or deeply developed characters. Once in a while, a movie that's almost completely about its surface features can stand apart from the crowd and dominate a genre, please an audience, and withstand the test of time. One such rarity is Kindergarten Cop, an affable, memorable, and commendable little 1990 slice-of-nostalgia film from Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters), a director with a nearly unmatched Comedy pedigree, a pedigree that shows in every lovingly crafted frame of this film. Though bookended by a bit of violence and moments that may be deemed too frightening for audiences of its title's age range -- not to mention a little adult verbiage in the middle stretch -- Kindergarten Cop holds up well as mostly family friendly entertainment that never overstays its welcome, knows it limits, and plays to its strengths. This is the epitome of the classic "guilty pleasure" film, one that works like a charm for mild and easily consumed yet precisely crafted entertainment.
Detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a big-city cop hot on the heels of a big prize, a hardened criminal named Crisp (Richard Tyson). When a man turns up dead by Crisp's hand and a witness is discovered at the scene, Crisp is arrested but the chances of a conviction seem slim: the witness is an unreliable junkie who barely knew the murdered man and never did get a clear look at the killer. To make a better case against Crisp, Kimble is paired up with a hypoglycemic cop named O'Hara (Pamela Reed). The two are to fly to Astoria, Oregon -- a picturesque Northwestern logging and port town -- to locate Crisp's estranged wife and son, the former of whom is said to have run away from her husband with $3,000,000 of his drug money in her pocket. Reed is to pose as a kindergarten teacher to get closer to Crisp's son -- for whom Crisp himself is desperately searching -- while Kimble leads the investigation behind the scenes. When Reed winds up sick and unable to teach, Kimble is forced into action by posing as the kindergarten teacher and pursuing the investigation while dealing with the biggest small challenge of his career: a classroom full of rowdy six-year-olds.
Kindergarten Cop effortlessly brings together outrageous verbal and physical comedy, standard-procedure action, and a surprisingly touching love story with a balanced command of the screen. The film has a lot going for it -- including Reitman's keen eye and know-how -- but it's unsurprisingly Arnold Schwarzenegger who makes it tick. Certainly, the film is sold in a word: "juxtaposition." The former Mr. Olympia teaching a kindergarten class is about as far out of left field as one can get within the boundaries of good taste, but the film is ultimately so much more than a one-gag wonder. It's the little interactive nuance and special kind of chemistry and camaraderie between Schwarzengger and his pint-sized stars that propels the movie to its lofty heights. Schwarzenegger simply devours the material, whether taking a hard edge with his class, easing off while finding a commanding presence with the police whistle, or blowing off steam outside the building. His transformations from unorthodox substitute to pillar of the community, from gritty, haggard big city detective to cleaned-up, small-town love interest are both sold simply yet thoroughly and convincingly. There's not a poor character or actor in the film, and neither is there a bad moment or unconvincing interaction, all of which is aided by an excellent score from Randy Edelman.
Indeed, a large part of the film's success comes from its smallest characters and actors. The filmmakers have done an incredible job in making real, rounded characters out of about a dozen of the kindergarten class students, often through a trademark word, catchphrase, or action. They need not be any more developed beyond Dominic (Joseph and Christian Cousins) and, to a lesser extent, the "red herring" students, Sylvester (Ben Diskin) and Zach (Justin Page). Yet their basic shaping only elevates the film several notches, giving it a real vibrancy and believability within the classroom that, in turn, accentuates Arnold's own character ups and downs both in the more playful second act and more serious third. As his character grows to learn that being a teacher isn't just about discipline and sharing information but rather making life matter, finding a purpose for himself and his students, and guiding the way to personal and group fulfillment, so too does the class mature from a rowdy, uncontrollable bunch to a model of school efficiency that will pay off when danger comes calling later on. Arnold, of course, carries the Action scenes well, both on the beat in the first act and cleaned up and classroom-hardened in the third. He proved he could handle smart Comedy in the grossly underrated Twins -- which is arguably the best film of his career and another Ivan Reitman gem -- and solidifies himself as a versatile performer here, capable of carrying a film that's not defined by gunfire and bloodshed.
On the other end of the spectrum are the simple and simply motivated Crisps who don't necessarily evolve throughout the film but nicely balance one another out and demonstrate a commendable focus on the task both alone and when paired together. They're both overprotective characters. Crisp will do anything -- including kill -- to get his son back, and his mother (Carroll Baker) will, too, though she also displays a somewhat more caring, slightly more tender exterior even if, inwardly, she's colder and more calculated than her son. Yet he's something of a loose cannon, a capable loose cannon for sure but nonetheless more driven by his emotions than reality. She, on the other hand, wishes for the same thing -- the safe return of her grandson -- but almost uses her own son as a borderline expendable stepping stone to get what she wants, which is nowhere more evident than by the shocked yet controlled and ever-more-dtermined look she shows when she discovers her son's fate late in the film. Richard Tyson and Arnold Schwarzenegger make an excellent pair, the former playing the sort slick characters Arnold so often dealt with in films like Raw Deal and Commando but, here, playing a smarter, more driven, more balanced version, even as there remains a slight craze in his eyes.
Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray, Video Quality
Kindergarten Cop enrolls on Blu-ray with a decent but troubled 1080p transfer. Universal's presentation fluctuates greatly, frequently delivering well-defined imagery but occasionally showcasing soft, murky shots, too. The image additionally flips between grainy, sharp, textured scenes and a number that take on a significantly smoother and flatter appearance. Generally, detail satisfies. The 1080p resolution boosts the film a good deal over standard, revealing clothing and skin textures with significantly greater accuracy at the nitty-gritty level. Likewise, odds and ends around the classroom enjoy a boost in clarity, too. Colors are never truly bold; the palette feels tired and drained, with the best moments coming in the colorful classroom but still failing to truly deliver a knockout sort of color explosion in those scenes. While skin tones aren't overly problematic, blacks frequently look rather flat and lifeless and show a little crush. The picture struggles with minor compression issues and lightly troubling color transitions, at times. Additionally, minor halo effects are visible in some shots, and the picture occasionally displays a fair bit of dirt and wear. This is watchable image, certainly, and a step up from previous home video releases, but fans won't be blown away by any stretch of the imagination.
Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kindergarten Cop arrives on Blu-ray with a tired and uninspired DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack. Music plays clearly and evenly enough over the opening credits, gently flowing out to the sides but lacking that precision, lifelike seamlessness superior tracks enjoy. A number of sound effects throughout the film -- mostly sharper, piercing effects like blaring fire alarms, blowing whistles, and a few gunshots -- don't necessarily falter, but neither do they inspire or stretch the sound system, let alone help transform the stage into the classroom or school hallways. A few lighter effects are surprisingly well defined, such as dripping water in a locker room heard near film's end. Dialogue isn't quite so prominent and accurate as fans might like to hear, coming across as a hair shallow, but there's never any real problem with clarity. Overall, this is a flat, bland track, one that effectively carries the movie but accomplishes little more. Randy Edelman's great score certainly deserves better.
Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All that's included is the Kindergarten Cop theatrical trailer (480i, 4x3, DD 2.0, 2:23). A UV digital copy code is included in the case. No main menu is included on this release; all options must be selected from a pop-up menu that appears only during film playback.
Kindergarten Cop Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Kindergarten Cop is nothing less than great entertainment. It captures the very essence of the simple, feel-good story, here blended together with a bit of action and an edge that works surprising well against the comedy, nearly as well as the juxtaposition that is "bodybuilder teaches kindergarten." It's great fun, one of the most quotable films of the 1990s, and holds up incredibly well almost a quarter-century after its release (oh, my, how time really does fly...). Sadly, Universal's Blu-ray release of Kindergarten Cop isn't all that impressive. Passably dull video and sound are supported by no extras of substance. Still, the release comes recommended on the strength of the film.
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