Back in the eighties and nineties, Arnold Schwarzenegger was larger than life. With his large build and thick Austrian accent, his rough exterior was contradicted by his sweet personality. This carries over more than successfully in Ivan Reitman’s “Kindergarten Cop,” one of his many efforts to connect with younger audiences. His transformation in to kids film star is nearly seamless, as he’s able to connect with his primarily younger cast surprisingly well, and garners a strong chemistry with just about everyone in the film.
“Kindergarten Cop” is a funny and adorable dramedy with Arnold front and center as Richard Kimble, a no nonsense cop who takes his work very seriously. When tasked with bringing down a vicious gangster, he’s paired with a new partner, and they travel to Astoria to go undercover and find the gangster’s long lost wife and child. Kimble has to sniff out the criminals, while his partner Phoebe goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to mix in with the local community. When she falls ill with the flu, Kimble is forced to play the teacher for the day. Met with disastrous (and hysterical) consequences, Kimble finds out he has to play the kindergarten teacher for as long as he can or else break the cover and ruin the operation.
This allows Kimble to not only find a new purpose beyond catching thieves and criminals, but he also is able to reflect on his own life involving a long lost son. Kimble is rough and cold for a reason, and he figures out that his life needs a lot of repairs after coming face to face with the varied student body of his kindergarten class, and their very hardworking parents. One sub-plot involves Kimble discovering a student of his is being abused by his father, while another single mother goes out of her way to woo him. Kimble gets more than he bargained for when he begins falling for a teacher in the school, as played by the insanely sexy Penelope Anne Miller. Coincidentally enough her son happens to be one of Kimble’s students. “Kindergarten Cop” mixes drama, comedy, and family friend antics perfectly, all the while building likable and interesting characters.
Kimble’s dynamic with the kindergarten class is often hilarious, as director Reitman develops these genuine personalities that challenge Kimble, as well as endear him. From Emma the temperamental little girl, to the young boy with a death complex, they provide a lot of laughter, and a nearly endless amount of quotable dialogue. Kimble manages to come out of his shell inadvertently as he gains a fondness for his situation, and soon realizes that his life hasn’t quite ended just yet. This is especially true when he bonds with his new partner Phoebe (played wonderfully by Pamela Reed) who is able to not only connect with Kimble, but help him figure out what he’s been missing for years. “Kindergarten Cop” really manages to capture the innocence and hilarity of the tough guys with little kids sub-genre without ever being cloying or maudlin. Schwarzenegger who started the trend, pulls off the genre change with a funny, sweet, and classic family film.