VOD film review: Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Mark Harrison | On 14, Aug 2020
Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pamela Reed, Richard Tyson, Penelope Ann Miller
Watch Kindergarten Cop online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Do you remember the 1990s? Mark does. On Fridays, he flashes back to the golden decade of our childhood. From family-friendly films to blockbusters we shouldn’t have been watching, get ready for a monthly dose of nostalgia, as we put down our VHS tapes and find out whether the 90s on Netflix are still Live & Kicking.
It’s not often that the majority of a movie’s cast are too young to actually see it in a cinema, but Kindergarten Cop is something of a one-off. It got a PG-13 certificate in America, but here in the UK, the 15-certificate comedy has been in hard rotation on Saturday afternoons on ITV since the mid-1990s with some of the nastier content filed off for a teatime audience. For those who otherwise didn’t get to see 15-certificate films from an early age, it may well have been the first you saw.
The film is book-ended by 20 minutes of quite violent police procedural bits, more in keeping with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action roles than his string of comic side-gigs with director Ivan Reitman, which began with 1988’s Twins. After an opening bout of murder and gunplay, Schwarzenegger’s LA detective John Kimble nabs drug dealer Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson) on a first-degree murder charge.
Determined to put Crisp away for life, Kimble travels to an elementary school in Oregon with partner Phoebe (Pamela Reed) to try and locate Crisp’s estranged ex-wife and son. The plan is for Phoebe to go undercover as a teacher, identify the ex via her 6-year-old son, and convince her to testify. However, the teacher-turned-detective falls ill on her first day, leaving Kimble to step into the breach and take on a gaggle of kindergarteners.
In between the opening and the finale’s extreme peril involving children and a ferret, the film has plenty for a family audience to enjoy in watching the former Mr Universe do his Mr Tumble thing. Schwarzenegger brings his eminent quotability and comic timing to lines like “There is no bathroom” and “It’s not a tumour”, but the young stars score most of the laughs.
Reitman apparently auditioned more than 2,000 children for the film. Of the ones who made the cut, there’s a charmingly untrained and unguarded quality to their semi-improvised performances. This came along many years before Kids Say The Funniest Things became a TV hit, but it’s an obvious forerunner, especially in the “who is your daddy and what does he do” interviews.
One of the film’s more undervalued players is Reed, who makes a great comic foil to Schwarzenegger, even without the token eccentricities that the film heaps upon her character. In hindsight, it’s mad to think that Kimble was a role Reitman first offered to Bill Murray (it would have been a very different movie) but Reed more than makes up for that kind of laconic energy in his absence. With Arnie playing the straight-man, she’s the only one in any kind of position to lighten the uber-seriousness of the grown-up plot and she does it well.
By the standards of high-concept 1990s comedies, Kindergarten Cop is perfectly fine, but there’s no getting past that steamroller tone. Even beyond the bizarrely violent opening and closing salvos, you have to wonder how anyone approved editing choices such as abruptly cutting from a school scene to a dead body in a morgue. It’s never clear who the audience is – somehow, the result is best enjoyed when you’re either too young or too old to be watching it.
Next Time on The 90s On Netflix…
“Normal people are not… psychologically equipped to catch mice.”