Golf club-swinging Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) of the Police Academy has been struck by what he thinks is a great idea, just as his officers are nearly struck by his golf balls. The idea? To reach out to the public, who have not been on amiable terms with the cops recently, and recruit citizens to a new department he likes to call Citizens on Patrol, or COP for short. Simply ask around who would like to be a kind of unofficial official, and when the rest of the public see that some of their own are now assisting the force things will go much easier in the city; this concept is gaining traction overseas, too. While Lassard is out of the country, his top officers take over...
Neighbourhood Watch was a scheme that started in the United States back in the nineteen-sixties, thanks to a very sobering crime that spurred many to action in their communities, and began to gain traction in the seventies. By the eighties, it was spreading around the world - in the United Kingdom, it arrived in 1982 - with the safety of the community by the community paramount in the plans, and it continues in much the same form across the globe. In the world of Police Academy, this meant casting the least likely citizens imaginable as cops, and this concept, which began way back in the first instalment, reached it apex in the fourth entry in the series. Or maybe its nadir.
Although the franchise was popular around the world throughout the eighties, it became something of a punch bag for an example of the creatively barren nature of the decade's comedy, in America at any rate, no matter how indicative or otherwise it actually was. The premise of misfits gaining a foothold in the supposedly uptight police department proved a box office winner, though this third sequel was the last where they stuck to it, as the following examples hewed closer to Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment and its template of sending the characters out on a mission. It didn't really matter what they did, in this era they were guaranteed to make a profit regardless.
This was also the last to feature most of the regulars, as after this there was a smattering of familiar faces to sustain some form of continuity, but the ensemble nature of these was responsible for essentially rendering them as a sketch show with recurring characters and a law and order theme. This was Steve Guttenberg's final starring role in the series, as he moved on afterwards, though not exactly to further blockbuster success, and if anyone was patently the director's favourite here it was Bobcat Goldthwait as the former gang leader-turned good guy Zed, who was offered more screen time than practically anyone, presumably due to his ability to improvise in character. He was even given a girlfriend (Corinne Bohrer) to further humanise him, but it was not enough to keep the comedian in the follow-ups.
There were noticeably fewer laughs than the previous entry, which had not been as funny as the one before, which had not been as funny as the original, but every so often, despite their reputation, the cast would manage to raise a chuckle thanks to their professionalism rather than any inherent brilliance in the lines or situations they were served up. Tiny-voiced Marion Ramsey had about two lines in the whole movie, but G.W. Bailey was back as the main antagonist, and much the same as before: he even got to visit The Blue Oyster Bar this time. Bubba Smith had a bizarre sequence where he was Rastafied 100% to scare three wayward recruits (who included David Spade), David Graf's main interest was elderly gun nut Billie Bird (not as amusing as the film believed) and Michael Winslow's catalogue of sound effects was being recycled by now. But it was not entirely thrown together: Leslie Easterbrook's gratuitous wet T-shirt pool scene was put to work as a plot point in the hot air balloon-packed finale. Oh, and this was the Sharon Stone one, where she had hair like Rod Stewart in 1973. Music by Robert Folk (this starts and ends with a rap, because 1987).