“It’s not a tu-mah” but it is the sequel to the 1990 Ivan Reitman film, Kindergarten Cop. Though can we just be honest? This is in no way a direct sequel in continuity to the world where Detective Richard Kimble played by “All-American Male”, Arnold Schwarzenegger went undercover as a Kindergarten teacher armed with ferrets and drill seargent discipline in an attempt to find the ex-wife and child of a psychotic drug dealer. Which I should mention is one of my childhood favorites and actually made the 8 year version of myself tear up in it’s more tender moments.
Instead what we have is a modern day reboot with a similar premise starring another familiar “Don’t-Let-My-Accent-Fool-You” American movie icon, everyone’s favorite Russian/Eternian hero, Dolph Lundgren. So a sequel in name only and reboot in spirit, this is an increasingly common phenomenon in movies these days that I am officially dubbing a “Requel”. Rehashing and recasting an old favorite, while adding a number 2 to the end = Requel. Get it? Got it? Good.
So how does the premise of a tough guy turned teacher hold up in terms of comedy and entertainment in the 26 year span from 1990 to 2016? Well, you could go rent it yourself from Redbox like I did or stream it on Netflix to your favorite device and skip this entire review to draw your own conclusions. Then again hanging around for 1,500 words or so while I make some snarky comments leading to my ultimate conclusion fun, right? SPOILERS AHEAD my friends, so using a direct quote from this film, “Let’s put the mac and cheese on the stove and get this play date started.”
We begin the film in a similar place as the first, FBI agent, Zack Reed (Dolph Lundgren) is in pursuit of an Albanian crime lord named Zogu who is your typical bearded, foreign bad guy. Agent Reed sets up a sting to lure in the criminal and Zogu goes to prison. It’s a pretty boring scene to introduce our hero, where we are immediately reminded that Lundgren has zero charisma on screen.
I understand the impulse to find a muscly, accented, Arnold stand-in because that worked so well in the original, but Dolph is not our guy. The Euro-Hottie good looks that made him a familiar face in the 80’s have long since faded and without the ability to create cartoony, gap-tooth facial expressions like Schwarzenegger, he doesn’t have anything to bring to the table. That’s not to say the movie doesn’t work in spite of him.
Our second introduction scene (which really should have been all we needed) takes place 1 year later, with Agent Reed still working for the FBI and violently threatening at gunpoint a sinister vending machine that is holding his Twix candy bar hostage. Meanwhile, his partner, played by a likable Bill Bellamy looks on in disdain and our protagonist has to be talked down by his stereotypical 80’s action movie trope, the screaming African American supervisor. This is where the movie started to win me over.
This act of rage against the machine comes out of nowhere, with no set-up for Agent Reed’s character having anger management issues and just in case you think Lundgren has been hiding some unexpected comedic genius from us all these years, he hasn’t. But the Twix/vending machine thread just keeps playing out in the dialogue throughout the first 15 minutes of the film.
So much so that when the FBI office is invaded by Zogu’s thugs who are trying to kill a black market hacker that is being interrogated by Dolph, he uses the vending machine as a shield, while firing at bad guys and ultimately crushes 2 of them with the bulky, junk food dispenser. At which point he triumphantly pulls a Twix bar out from the broken glass as his reward for a job well done. Chekov’s candy bar is a nice stand in for Chekov’s gun in this script. Then the real plot kicks in.
The macguffin for this movie is a flash drive that contains a list of all participants in the Witness Protection Program, revealing their real names and new identities. Zogu wants this intel for an unspecified reason and the FBI needs to get it before he does. The hacker who offered to sell this info to the Albanian villain reveals that the flash drive was hidden by his brother, a kindergarten teacher who was recently killed in a car crash caused by Zogu’s henchmen.
After interrogation of the brother’s 6 year old students by the feds gives them nothing but a callback to the first film’s famous, “Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina” moment, Lundgren’s Agent Reed offers to go undercover and take over the dead brother’s teaching duties while searching for the flash drive. Which just happens to be at a liberal, San Francisco area elementary school . As a side note, it’s funny to realize that in the 80’s everyone seemed to be searching for “the files”, in the 90’s everyone was looking for “the disks” and these days it’s the “flash drive”, the times they are a-changin’.
Lundgren’s first day on the job is the set-up for most of the film’s comedy and it is during this introduction of characters that we realize what the real title of this script must have been, “Things Sure Have Changed Since I Was In School”. The premise being touted is that kids today are wussy, neurotic, hypochondriacs that just need is some tough love to make them “normal”, like we Generation X-ers were back in the 70s and 80’s.
This first becomes apparent when Mr. Reed conducts story time featuring the tale of the Rainbow Bird, who doesn’t want to be better than anybody else, even though it is the most beautiful. Disgusted he forcefully declares the book to be “Liberal B.S.” and tries to convince the kids that they should try to be great, celebrating what makes them better than everybody else. The children are stunned with confusion at the idea. This clear jab at the trendy 21st Century concept of “everyone’s a winner” and the growing number of kid’s sports where no one is keeping score, should resonate strongly with today’s 30 somethings entering the parenting world.
When lunchtime rolls around the meat-eating man’s man is baffled by the vegetarian meals being consumed by the children, only to be told that it’s “Meatless Monday”. He proudly remarks that it’s a good thing he brought his “PB and J”, which is like some alien code to the kids. But as soon as he reveals peanut butter to be the main ingredient the classroom explodes in a frenzy with the kids shouting, “PEANUTS!” with the same fear one would expect from the release of killer bees into the school’s air vents.
After a few more incidents like this, Reed is finally saved from the chaos by the the love interest of the story, a fellow Kindergarten teacher named Olivia (Darla Taylor), looking like a nerdy Mila Kunis mixed with Eva Mendes. After being caught digging through her drawer full of flash drives, our hero makes up a story about asking her out on a date to cover himself.
She agrees and we get to see our comic relief character, the schlubby computer science teacher, Hal make it known that he, “Called Dibs” on her years ago, which Reed non-chalantly shrugs off. This guy really is the highlight of the film, giving us some real comedy throughout (excluding the cheap laughs he gets being shot in the balls with a taser Jackass style) with his hopeless, socially awkward schtick as a non-existent member of an assumed love triangle.
During the date we see that Olivia has transformed herself from overworked schoolteacher to exotic hottie that eventually finds herself writhing sensually atop a mechanical bull at Lundgren’s favorite country western bar. This development is fine, Miss Taylor is FINE, what really works against the film is Dolph in the role. Not only is he 30 years her senior, but there is no way this Swedish hunk spends his time line dancing through sawdust covered floors. One can only suspend disbelief for so long.
Back at the school, Agent Reed gets help from Bill Bellamy’s, Agent Sanders via prompting through an ear piece and hacking into the school security camera feed. The child development coaching provided during this scene where Reed learns that concepts such as time-out and telling kids they’re smart is outdated, shows the role was clearly written for a younger actor from the generation that used non-PC words like “retarded”, which our hero is also scolded for.
The best example of his clueless nature is when Reed tells the kids to sit “Indian Style” and get’s zero results. Bellamy then tells him that “Indian Style is dead. It’s Criss Cross Applesauce now.” As soon as Dolph uses the magical, non-racially insensitive word, the children find their seats with no problem.
Now more confident and in control, Reed gets to uses his own his “warrior” skills to teach the kids about the story of Trojan Horse to win at Capture the Flag which cements his relationship with the students.
One big 21st century update to a rehashed minor plot point from the original has to do with the student who has a suspected abusive father. In 1990, Arnold got away with punching the drunk dad in the face and had everyone cheering for his good-hearted vigilante justice. In 2016, so as to avoid the obvious lawsuit that would follow such an incident, Dolph instead sensitively tells the Dad he understands what it’s like to be laid off and says he will call some friends to help him find work. “You would do that for me?” the Dad responds. “I’d do that for her.” Dolph replies and our hearts melt…theoretically.
Of course the whole Zogu thing is still going on in the background, with 2 Albanian goons identifying the agent and hassling him into giving up the case. With the help of a secret code found in a rhyme about the class pet guinea pig, Reed, Sanders and Olivia realize the flash drive is in the kindergarten time capsule just at Zogu and his gang show up to force the heroes into taking the bad guys to the site of a field trip where the capsule is about to be buried.
The final battle finds the kids ganging up on the bad guys with wooden sticks swinging and holding their own. Action I should mention was cued by Dolph chomping down on a Twix bar (yes!). Dolph and Zogu then have a man to man showdown in the nearby creek that ends with the groaner of a one-liner, “Class is dismissed”, which Bellamy quickly calls Lundgren out on as lame. The flash drive is saved and claimed by “Angry Seargent Stereotype” who inexplicably appears from the woods to retrieve it, then disappears into the trees once again (so weird).
The final scene of the kids running into the classroom to embrace their hero teacher is expected, but out of place as credits roll.
So, you have the plot, but should you see the movie? Look, Lundgren is the weak point of this film, I’ve made that clear, but the movie itself is cheesy fun. He’s surrounded by enough c-level supporting characters in wacky scenarios that you get a few laughs every scene. The script helps in that it is very self-aware and plays with old movie cliches that we the audience have smartened up to over the last 20 years.
It’s not a masterpiece, but you could do worse on a lazy Saturday night. Check it out.
For more fun with Dolph Lundgren, click here to check out the Masters of the Universe episode of the SequelQuest podcast where we envision a sequel to the 1988 film. Will Dolph make the cut? You’ll have to listen and find out.