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Canuxploitation!

Recruits

1986, Starring Alan Deveau, Annie McAuley, Jon Mikl Thor. Directed by Rafal Zielinski.





Released in 1984, the film Police Academy reaped a huge box office. It's continued popularity as a video rental eventually spawned a mind-blowing six sequels, two television shows and a line of action figures. Although probably not the funniest, it has certainly remained one of the most popular comedy franchises of the 1980s.

Now, let's get one thing straight-- Rafal Zielinski's film Recruits is a rip-off of Police Academy. Just as Zielinski's Screwballs aped Porky's with no shame, Recruits makes no apologies about it's blatant bandwagon jump towards home video rental glory.

Mayor Bagley is excited to discover that the Governor is coming to his little town of Clam Cove for an important announcement. It looks like his town will finally be getting that freeway, a huge boost to their economy. To ensure that the governor is suitably impressed, Bagley readies a parade and instructs Police Chief McGruder (Canadian comic Mike McDonald, in yet another screwball comedy) to beef up the traffic patrol with a temporary motorcycle unit made up of average citizens.

But McGruder and his hard-ass sidekick Sgt. Stonewall don't care about the town's budget problems they have a different agenda. In a plan not quite worthy of Machiavelli, McGruder figures that if he hires screw-ups, the Governor will fire the mayor, leaving his job ripe for the picking. This presents a new problem: where to find a ragtag bunch of misfits to ineptly stumble through their duties (until such a time arises that they are truly needed, whereby they single-handedly save the day, earn self-respect, and gain the love of their peers to the chagrin of the unnecessarily cruel authority figures) on such short notice?

How about in McGruder's own jail cell at the station? All four of our principal characters meet in the clink one day after a variety of minor infractions involving naked girls. Alan Deveau, the poor man's Eddie Deezen, apparently reprises his role of Howie the nerd from Screwballs, and along for the ride are three more "nutty" characters. The smirking Mahoney/Steve Guttenberg role is shared by Steve and Mike, but Zielinski does break tradition by throwing in Winston, a black character who doesn't make any sounds with his mouth.

Even Zielinski knows you need more than four characters for an ensemble comedy, so he wisely puts Stonewall out in front of the station with a clipboard. Under McGruder's eye Stonewall rejects anyone even remotely qualified and instead enlists a call-girl named Brazil, the trigger happy Eastwood-wannabe Clint (filling the Tackleberry role), heavy metal biker Thunderhead (Jon Mikl Thor), and the town drunk (who seems mysteriously absent in many scenes). To round out the recruits and give Steve and Mike possibilities for some nude hijinks, Sybil and the mayor's daughter Tanya are also brought along for the ride.

The policeballs immediately get back in training, tackling an obstacle course and a shooting range with pathetic and/or wacky results. Since they were originally brought on the force as a motorcycle patrol, the film also gives everyone some time to embarass themselves on the police bikes. Well, everyone except for Thunderhead, who expertly rips up a farmer's field to the strains of fist-shaking '80s metal cheese sung by his real-life alter-ego, Thor!

Following the Police Academy playbook closely, their first assignment proves that the new recruits aren't quite ready. A rebel biker gang makes the team look more than a little foolish, and Winston is attacked in a country bar by some good ol' boys. Because really, what's funnier than a racial lynching?

Meanwhile, Mayor Bagely is concerned that terrorists are going to attack the Governor and lay the whole city under siege, so he calls up McGruder and demands he put the deputized citizens on patrol the next day. The Mayor should be afraid, because there is someone after the Governor McGruder! The recruits get off to a bad start when Steve and Sybil sneak off into a car at the airport to make love. Of course, it's the Governor's car, and when he gets in the back, they chauffer him to the parade in the buff. The parade seems to pass without any problems, but when it comes time to actually make the announcement, McGruder sets off a "cannon salute" with the intention of killing the Governor. But he misses, and instead takes out the speaking platform. Unable to prevent the chaos that results, the recruits are all fired.

Until, of course, they are truly needed. After the other police officers get sick, the recruits are brought back on to keep the traffic under control. Each also gets the chance to exact revenge from the first day on the job-- Winston scares the hicks by taking a cougar into the country bar, and Thunderhead goes all intercessor on the biker gang's ass. Now, all they have to do is figure out who tried to kill the governor to prove they were unfairly canned.

So what was the location for Zielinski's latest screwball assignment: Miami Beach? No, actually Recruits was filmed at Central Ontario's bastion of spring-break like teenage activity, Wasaga Beach. And really, when you think about, it's the perfect place for films like this. And when I say "films like this" you know what I'm talking about. Recruits is one of the few Canadian sex comedies not to actually use the "-balls" suffix, but it's comfortably within the same territory covered by fellow screwball films Screwballs, Fireballs, and Goofballs. Although certainly not the worst of the bunch, I'd have to say it's on par with lower tier entries like Screwballs 2.

But seek Recruits out anyways. Although I won't pretend this isn't one in a series of clichd, braindead films, some of the gags actually work. There's also plenty to keep the bad film fan entertained, including Jon Mikl Thor's first onscreen role, and Lolita Davidovich in her third. You can also busy yourself by seeing if Alan Deveau's manic "Howie" character can chew scenery faster than a disgraced Mike McDonald, in each actor's third(!) appearance in a Canadian screwball sex comedy. And if all that fails, take comfort in the fact that Winston is played by an actor named John Canada Terrell.


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