Times Staff Writer

What’s so amazing about the “Police Academy” movies is that they keep being made even though they stopped being funny after the hilarious original. We’re now up to No. 4, and the most you can say for it is that it is the teeniest bit better, not quite so crass as the last two.

“Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” (citywide) takes its subtitle from an idea of absent-minded Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes). In the era of Neighborhood Watch, the commandant thinks it would be a good thing to train citizens at the Police Academy to serve as auxiliary cops.

There might have been some comic possibilities in this, but writer Gene Quintano strays widely from the premise to toss out, hit-and-miss fashion, a series of pranks involving much slapstick humor and culminating in some aerial tomfoolery involving hot-air balloons and a pair of ancient biplanes. Unfortunately, the film never takes flight itself.


Steve Guttenberg and all the other “Academy” regulars are on hand, including G.W. Bailey as the humorless, apoplectic Capt. Harris and Bobcat Goldthwait with his patented routine of googly-eyed angst . (What fun it might be to see Goldthwait, a comedian clearly on the way up, directed by someone whose talent is as offbeat as his is--Jim Jarmusch or John Waters, for example.)

Director Jim Drake is at least brisk and amiable; if nothing else, “Police Academy 4” (rated PG) is good-natured and doesn’t drag.

‘POLICE ACADEMY 4: CITIZENS ON PATROL’ A Warner Bros. presentation. Producer Paul Maslansky. Director Jim Drake. Screenplay Gene Quintano; based on characters created by Neal Israel and Pat Proft. Camera Robert Saad. Music Robert Folk. Production designer Trevor Williams. Costumes Aleida MacDonald. Associate producer Donald West. Stunt coordinator Michael DeLuna. 2nd unit director M. James Arnett. 2nd unit camera Fred Guthe. Film editor David Rawlins. With Steve Guttenberg, G.W. Bailey, Bobcat Goldthwait, George Gaynes, Bubba Smith, Michael Winslow, David Graf, Tim Kazurinsky, Sharon Stone, Leslie Easterbrook, Marion Ramsey, Lance Kinsey.

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG (Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children)