All I Really Need To Know I Learned In ‘Kindergarten Cop’ (A Very Special Junkfood Cinema)

By  · Published on March 31st, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we’ve already eaten a truckload of those Dorito-shell tacos. This is the weekly (cough) bad movie column that dares never to ask why. Our taste-free taste in film runs the gamut from terrible to abysmal to Ishtar to worse. Usually the way this is constructed, and I only use that term in the same sense as one constructing a soggy gingerbread house, is that we skewer the film first, pointing out all its sundry flaws before lavishing adoration upon it in section two. This is routinely followed by a tasty (read: heart-punching) snack food item themed to the movie. But rules, like diets, were made to be broken. It is therefore with slightly less shame than usual that we present to you the various important life lessons taught to us by one of the all time great contributions to Elementary School Film Noir: Kindergarten Cop.

Lesson 1: Any Man Sporting a Ponytail Is a Villain. While it may be true that some villains do not rock this dangling coif, you can be assured that anyone with this particularly unsightly follicle abundance is just as likely to shoot you in the face as he is to rinse, repeat, and leave in his conditioner. They try to throw us off the trail with this long-haired, squished-faced John Travolta(ish) baddie by having him willingly hang out in a beauty salon with his mother, but that skull-hanging eyesore continues to serve as a silky, robust red flag that he is in fact a giant bowl of dick flakes.

Lesson B: Schwarzenegger Is a Cop with a Kindergartener’s Understanding of Law. Apparently while John Kimble excelled at the “Being Square-Headed” portion of the detective’s exam, he floundered a bit on the whole due process subject. I don’t know if it was his handcuffing a bystander to a corpse, interrogating a suspect without his lawyer, or harassing a private citizen until she agreed to testify, but something tells me Kimble has added more syllables to otherwise short words than he has criminals to correctional facilities. But hey, at least the entire reason for the police interest in this woman is to recover $3million that never existed.

Lesson the Third: Astoria Only Has One School. Armed with no knowledge of what their potential witness or her child look like, or what names they were using, Kimble and his partner, Lady Vomitoria, go traipsing off to Astoria, Oregon where they know her to be living. The only other clue they have is that they deduce, from his birth information, that the son would be in kindergarten. Their plan is simple, and not dissimilar from that of creepy pervs, they will just infiltrate the elementary schools under false pretenses until they stumble across the kid they’re after. Lucky for them, apparently, Astoria only has one elementary school with one kindergarten class. Now, there appear to be around 20 children in the room when Kimble arrives, which is strange. According to 1990 US Census data for Astoria, that class should have closer to 285 students. Schwarzenegger may have bested predators and the rulers of ancient snake cults, but seeing him take on 285 kindergarteners would have been supremely epic.

Lesson F: Elementary School Children Are Sociopaths. It’s probably best for all the residents of Astoria that all the elementary school kids are confined to one place, because if this movie teaches us anything it’s that children are maniacs hellbent on the suffering and death of all innocents. Think I’m paranoid? That’s just what everyone else on the planet says about me. But if you pay attention in the scene in which Kimble first arrives at the school, you’ll have all the evidence you need that kids equal evil. As another teacher, the permed, leggy, turtleneck-sweater-dress-wearing Ms. 90s Hot, is resolving a conflict between two students, she gently reminds Matthew, in her softly sibilant voice, “I sent you to the principal’s office because you punched Jenny.” As he tries to protest, she interrupts, “I know, I know…she poisoned your hamsters. But you shouldn’t punch people. Let’s go back to class.” I’m sorry, go back a bit. You have a student in your class who is poisoning small animals?! That doesn’t strike you as troublesome? As in, “precursor to serial killer” troublesome? And why is Matthew the only one in the principal’s office and not little Jenny Dahmer?

Lesson Also: Children Learn Best Through a Curriculum of Fascism and Montage. As with any fish-out-water story, Kindergarten Cop quickly devolves into a advertisement for fascism. Inexplicably straying from his surefire method of making twisted ragefaces and screaming at the children, Kimble opts for a more structured approach to teaching. He develops what he calls Police School, because Police State would be far too..accurate. First, he introduces them to the idea that he owns them all and that their basic comforts (ie the bathroom) no longer exists, and then conditions them to submit totally at the sound of a whistle. He then teaches them to march in time and puts them through a rigorous physical training regimen. Had he videotaped the training on a handheld camera, the tape would have likely ended up on CNN with our NSA threat level jumping up from Orange to Fingerpaint. Through the time-honored medium of montage, we see that the children slowly become docile, well-behaved subscribers to his doctrine of Police School. Unfortunately however, they were all gunned down just two days before graduation.

Lesson More: Kindergarten Is Like the Ocean. Ms. 90s Hot remarks that kindergarten is like the ocean, in that you should never turn your back on it. I’m wondering if there was more to her clearly scientifically-grounded theory not conveyed due to the urgency of the potty incident it preceded. I imagine her expounded statement was “kindergarten is like the ocean, you should never turn your back on it…also it’s full of sharks, it’s controlled by the moon, and it often smells like a salty old diaper.”

Lesson Zero: Ferrets Make Great Classroom Pets. I legitimately had no idea this was true. I mean yes, they are small and furry, meeting the two requirements for eliciting preschool adoration, but I was ignorant enough to believe they would be an ill-advised choice for class mascot considering the biological fact that the ferret, as a member of the weasel family, kills for fun. Ferrets will kill far more than they ever intend to eat just for the sport. This may explain why this happy little creature suddenly goes for the jugular of the villain holding his own son hostage. The thing is, while they do have anal scent glands similar to skunks, ferrets do not have an understanding of morality, and therefore Worm-With-Legs, or whatever his name is, could have just as easily, and happily gone for the throat of the little kid. Incidentally, I don’t know where Kimble learned to use a weapon, but a 6’3 man holding a 3’nothing child at gunpoint when the kid only comes up to his knees presents a pretty easy target. Take the damn shot!

Lesson X: Schwarzenegger Should Be Narrating Every Book On Tape Until the End of Time. Whether it be War and Peace or a simple children’s story about “beyhers dat go shawping,” it is quite evident that the institution of literature has been deprived of Arnold’s dulcet tones for far too long. Think of the smile that would grace your rugrat’s fat face when, over the car stereo on a long trip, Schwarzenegger’s schnitzel-sucking clunkmouth launched into his favorite bedtime story, “Eef you wuhr a buhrd, and leeved on high, yuhd leen on di weened when di weened came bye.” I also think his narratory talents would serve the medical community well. Just imagine listening to your oncology textbook read aloud by Arnie as he relays to you the best way to treat “maleegnunt toomahs”

Lesson Too: A Movie Populated with Kid Actors Is Not Necessarily a Kids’ Movie. Be not fooled by the cheery cover, in which Schwarzenegger man-mountain is being scaled by a flock of rambunctious brats, Kindergarten Cop is not a kids’ movie. As often as we see children singing songs and frolicking on the playground, all set to the nauseating melodiousness of the diet Marc Cohen score, we are treated to thug-shooting, junkie od’ing, and a veritable verbal storm of “shit”drops and “asshole”flurries. The more heavy-handed moral of the film is that even the hardest, most humanity-hating jerkwads can be cured of their doucheness by being immersed in toddlers for a few weeks; a lesson that has lead to the practice of sociologists catapulting children at Fox News anchors. But the lesson I will be far more likely to take from this is how satisfying it is to see an old woman beaten with a bat…something I’ll be handing down to my kids for sure.

Lesson Eww: The Real Action Kindergarten Is In Kindergarten. This is a line spoken by an adult male in the film, I’d prefer it if no further context offered.

Junkfood Pairing: Cookie Crisp

The villain of Kindergarten Cop has easily one of the worst villain names in the history of villains or names: Cullen Crisp. Given his unfortunate tag, and the fact that Kindergarten Cop takes place in the Pacific Northwest, I can’t help but believe that he was named after the short-lived, ill-advised Twilight cereal. As that cereal, thankfully, no longer exists (or possibly never existed), stuff your face with this sugary alliterative delight that sounds vaguely like our antagonist. Eating as much of it as you can stuff in your facehole will almost probably not give you a toomah.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.