Kindergarten Cop (1990)
May 7, 2024 1:19 PM - Subscribe

A tough cop must pose as a kindergarten teacher in order to locate a dangerous criminal's ex-wife, who may hold the key to putting him behind bars.

In this action-comedy, unusual circumstances find big, brawny cop John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) posing as a kindergarten teacher in order to apprehend major drug lord Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson), as well as his ruthless accomplice and mother, Eleanor (Carroll Baker). While pretending to be a kid-friendly instructor, Kimble falls for pretty fellow teacher Joyce Palmieri (Penelope Ann Miller) as he battles both unruly children and dangerous bad guys.

Allison Rose: This was one of Schwarzenegger's more diverse roles to date, showcasing the actor's talent in more than just action sequences. He shows a range of emotions, from romance to sympathy, anger, and fear, and recites his more comedic lines well. Miller is good and seemed to show a lot of promise here but didn't do a ton of acting after this. Reed and Schwarzenegger are paired well as "buddy" cops who become friends despite his initial reluctance to have a partner.

Kim Newman:

The initial joke of facing the man mountain from The Terminator with the one obstacle he can’t possibly overcome — a classroom full of six-year-olds — fades almost instantly as the Macaulay Culkin-wannabe tykes proudly trot out in succession their personalised cute mannerism and Arnie miraculously but expectedly turns from gruff kid-hater to dewy-eyed super-teacher in the space of an aerobics montage.

With a heart of purest mush, Kindergarten Cop still manages to be generally entertaining, even for folk with an aversion to Aryan body builders or perky pre-teenagers, while some of the jokes are a reminder that Reitman was once a promising comic talent, and the thriller stuff benefits from a stronger-than-usual set of villains and a nicely-judged sidekick performance from Pamela Reed as Schwarzenegger's gourmet colleague.

Rita Kempley: Arnold gradually falls in love with teaching, a third-grade teacher (Penelope Ann Miller) and the kindergartners themselves but not before they test his mettle with their shenanigans. His partner was supposed to handle the teaching, but she's come down with the flu on the trip from L.A. to Astoria, Ore., where the villain is bound. "They're only 6-year-olds. How much trouble can they be?" he asks. "On second thought, take the gun," she advises.

A Hun humbled by his energetic class, he first caters to their whims but then discovers discipline. He teaches the children to march, to hold their water and to respond to whistled commands. Though Schwarzenegger remains to acting what ham hocks are to a cheese course, he manages against all odds to be appealing as the Austrian au pair. Think of it as "To Conan With Love."

posted by Carillon (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Another one I thought was posted, but such a classic. It is one of my favorite Schwarzenegger performances. He's so good in this, he's funny, he clearly loves the kids. I do think it is one of the most tonally jarring of his films, you start with a pretty gritty drug hunt movie with folks getting handcuffed to dead bodies, only to have it become a kid focused film.

The kids are also great, they don't feel false or overused. I don't know how they felt about it, but it seems to have been a decently positive experience from what I've read. But man just a delight of a film. Pamela Reed is also so good too , her just slipping into that Austria accent, and her love of food are all amazing.
posted by Carillon at 1:31 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

This exchange lives in my head forever:

"It might be a tumor."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:58 PM on May 7 [21 favorites]

I always love the game, "who is your daddy and what does he do"!
posted by Carillon at 2:04 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

Pretty fun little movie—not quite on the level of Twins, as light comedic Arnold performances go, but way better than Junior.

Also notable:
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:05 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]

This exchange lives in my head forever:
"It might be a tumor."

Arnold's line is my go-to internal response whenever I have some mysterious health thing and the thought that it might be cancer occurs to me. It's saved me from so much anxiety.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 2:30 PM on May 7 [5 favorites]


Didn't Arnold play a pregnant man later?

"On second thought, take the gun," she advises.

I'm guessing this line didn't age well.

It's always kinda funny when Ahnuld makes a movie where they just ignore his accent/heritage and I guess he's supposed to be a generic person?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:03 PM on May 7

The part where Kimball confronts Zack's dad and then has to go to the principal's office is the movie for me. Schwarzenegger socking an abuser in the gut is wish fulfillment for a lot of people. And then Arnold and Linda Hunt have a great scene. Physically imposing Arnold is excellent playing subordinate and respectful while there is no doubt physically diminutive Linda's character is in command.
posted by Stuka at 3:57 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]

They don't ignore it here! It's a plot point that Pamela Hunt's character has to affect an Austrian accent because he's called her his sister. He even talks about coming over from Austria.
posted by Carillon at 4:35 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

There are a lot of other guys who became big action stars in the eighties and later, who worked that shtick until their mojo faded, who had neither the chops nor the willingness to play directly and deliberately against type once they started aging out of being able to pull off the action as well as they used to, and the ones who did probably did so specifically because Arnold was willing to do movies such as this, Twins, Junior, etc. Clint Eastwood can claim prior art with Every Which Way but Loose and its sequel; Hulk Hogan did a lot of action comedy but he was never a "serious" action star to begin with. And "there is no bathroom!" still makes me laugh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:22 PM on May 7

It's naht a tumah is okay, but here's my favorite line from this one.
posted by Naberius at 5:58 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]

It's naht a tumah is okay, but here's my favorite line from this one.

I knew what that would be before I clicked.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 6:40 PM on May 7

We actually watched this a couple nights ago. My wife learned the origin of "it's not a tumor!" But lot of the humor didn't age well — a man teaching kindergarten must be gay, or laughing off the kid who was "only" looking up the girls' skirts.
posted by emelenjr at 7:05 PM on May 7

a man teaching kindergarten must be gay

Where does that come from in the movie? Isn't Kimball the object of desire for Astoria's single moms?
posted by Stuka at 7:49 PM on May 7

It's their gossip before they see him for the first time I believe.
posted by Carillon at 9:45 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

I did not remember that about the accent, thanks! Been a long time since I saw this, clearly.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:31 PM on May 7

I gotta say, as someone who has cancerous tumors now, that line is a lot less funny than it used to be. In recollection, my dad stopped quoting it after his cancer diagnosis too.

posted by Servo5678 at 1:13 AM on May 8 [4 favorites]

I don’t often think of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adam Sandler as competing for the same scripts, but this is basically an Adam Sandler script and it amuses me to no end to imagine casting these two in each others’ comedies.
posted by gauche at 6:13 AM on May 8

I always expected Penelope Ann Miller's career to go farther than, well, this and that weird movie The Freshman with Matthew Broderick and the monitor lizard.

(Yeah, I read her wikipedia page and saw all those movies & TV shows, but I thought she would be bigger than that relatively small-time stuff.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:21 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]

People actually like this movie? Wow - I guess its for you that they released a 4K disc of this. Count me as dissenter - I find Schwarzenegger's comedies painfully unfunny and unwatchable.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:16 AM on May 8

It's naht a tumah is okay, but here's my favorite line from this one.

Never watched the movie, but that clip is probably the most American thing I've ever seen.
posted by rpophessagr at 8:26 AM on May 8

I think this movie gave me my love for “person with dangerous job takes on childcare” flicks. See also: The Pacifier and The Spy Next Door. I think it’s the interplay between the kids and Schwarzenegger that makes it.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:58 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]

Not a great movie by any stretch but it was entertaining and yeah when Arnold punches the abuser and then after he's called to the principal's office and leaves she does a punching action is a great scene. I'm sure there are a lot of parents that teachers wish they could punch.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:40 PM on May 8

I thought the combination of a light-hearted and actually rather sweet comedy with kids and the moderately graphic and decidedly not comedic violence did not work. I still enjoyed the movie, but felt that it was two movies trying to be squished into one.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:46 PM on May 8

The last paragraph of the Ebert review is interesting.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:33 AM on May 9

I loved this movie as a kid, heh, although I wasn't kindergarten aged. Rewatched it recently and still enjoy it, although the actual kindergarten bits (clearly the highlights) make up a smaller portion of the whole runtime then I remembered.

I had also totally forgotten the ferret's key role at the climax.

The start of the movie when Kimble is harassing that poor witness is tough to stomach, but in the end Kimble quits being a cop to follow his true passion as a kindergarten teacher. I like to assume he regrets his time as a cop, having found a better way to give back to society, but I admit that is not exactly supported by the text.
posted by the primroses were over at 10:52 AM on May 10

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