New to Video-on-Demand: Kindergarten Cop 2

This week on "Things That Shouldn't Exist But Somehow Do,"
Blake reviews Dolph Lundgren's newest comedy.

I'll be the first to admit, when I first heard there was going to be a sequel to Kindergarten Cop, my brain suffered a small implosion. Brain cells screamed in terror and popped like water balloons tossed into rose bushes. Even the casting of Dolph Lundgren, a man whose nostalgic factor has aged like a fine wine, didn't quell my imminent dread. The original Kindergarten Cop is something of a miracle: A comedy vehicle from the director of Ghostbusters starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, featuring ageless humor, laugh-out-loud one-liners, and some of the most violently adult imagery ever marketed to children in a mainstream motion picture. It was a perfect storm that we continue to adore, even as we lampoon Arnold's endlessly quotable lines to death.

How can you possibly make a sequel to such a film, let alone in 2016? Getting the original screenwriters on board would be a solid step. Maybe they could play off of Lundgren's action star persona much in the way they did with Arnold, portraying him as a relic from a time before political correctness went completely off the rails in social justice and public education. That would place him in the perfect straight-man role amongst the muzzled insanity that is the American education system. It would also be a plus if the plot didn't take itself too seriously and embraced those action movie cliches Lundgren and Arnold were a big part of solidifying into our culture. Much to my grateful and undying surprise, director Don Michael Paul does exactly that. The original screenwriters are back, and they've lovingly assembled this production from a mess of '80s cliches. This film doesn't need to exist, but now that I've seen it, I'm kind of okay with it.

Right out of the gate, there is stuff to laugh at, starting with the police sting in a hotel room spearheaded by a wrinkled loose cannon (Lundgren) with a rambunctious partner (Bill Bellamy) and a walking bullhorn of a supervising officer (Danny Wattley). We've seen all this before, but the script is good enough, the acting is tongue-in-cheek, and we get that it's all part of the joke. Even blatant product placement provides some of the biggest laughs ("That's not the point! This machine owes me a goddamn Twix bar!"). By the time we get to where we all know the film is going, which is using a hackneyed crime plot as an excuse to place Ivan F**king Drago in a kindergarten classroom, I was actually kind of stunned. Capping off with an downright brilliant satirical monologue from the flighty reduced carbon footprint Principal Sinclaire (Sarah Strange), Kindergarten Cop 2 comes flying out of the gate with a lot going for it.

"I must break you."
The second act inevitably slows down to make room for the requisite love story with another kindergarten teacher (Darla Taylor), taken straight from the "make it like the original playbook," but despite Lundgren looking about twenty years too old for Taylor, they have good chemistry, and their scenes together are enjoyable. Equally enjoyable are the children, who aren't as memorable as the kids in the original, but nonetheless have some really funny bits. My personal favorite had to be Tripp (William Budijanto), the little Asian boy whose dialogue is relayed via subtitles despite his speaking perfectly intelligible American English. And this actually stabs straight to the heart about what I sort of love about Kindergarten Cop 2: Not only is it self aware of its own dispensability (i.e. 22 Jump Street), but the screenwriters clearly have a hysterical disdain for many aspects of dumbed down new age parenting. Many of the best jokes in the movie, from Principal Sinclaire's announcements to the use of scantily clad women in the villain's lair for no reason at all, spit squarely in the face of the mainstream's politically correct mentality that has officially careened off the cliff of ridiculous and into the abyss of self parody.

By the time Kindergarten Cop 2 came to its conclusion, I was no longer blown away, but nor was I unimpressed. There are numerous flaws. The action could've used more concise direction, not all of the jokes hit their mark, the creaking cogs of plot machination squeak especially loud in the second act, and it never goes quite as dark or involving as the original. Despite its exuberance of pointing out some of the ways in which America has gone full retard, and some good comic timing from Lundgren, there's just no substitute for Arnold, and Don Michael Paul is no Ivan Reitman. With that being said, the fact that Kindergarten Cop 2 manages to climb out of the Hollywood swamp of worthless straight-to-VOD sequels and stand on its own two feet may just be enough. Now gimme my goddamn Twix bar.

- Blake O. Kleiner

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