Kindergarten Cop (1990)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Kindergarten Cop</strong> (1990)

(On Cable TV, November 2016) I had managed to miss this film from the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger period, but after finally watching Kindergarten Cop I’m not sure it was much of a loss. As a hybrid between family-friendly comedy and action thriller, it falls uneasily between two chairs: It doesn’t tone town its PG-13 action sequences (meaning that you’ll see people getting shot, even if with only a modest amount of blood), and yet spends a lot of time on the comedic section of its story, with plenty of easy gags about a bulky policeman confronting a group of small children. It doesn’t help that much of the film feels unpleasant, focusing on child endangerment, making so-called jokes about divorce and abandonment, using a script that takes plot contrivances to an entirely new level within a predictable structure. What saves the movie are largely the performances, with Schwarzenegger in fine form as he goes from action to comedy. (He even sports a stylish bead in the film’s first sequence.) In retrospect, it looks as if Kindergarten Cop was a prototype for an entire sub-genre of movies featuring action heroes in kid-friendly movies. The Pacifier, The Spy next Door, The Tooth Fairy … all stem from the same core idea of expanding an action persona to a wider audience. None have worked perfectly yet, largely for the same reasons why Kindergarten Cop feels incoherent most of the time: It’s not easy to pander both to the demands of the action fans and the family-entertainment crowd at once—the slightest hint of violence makes the film unsuitable for younger viewers even despite the promises of the premise.

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