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Need a laugh? - “Kindergarten Cop”

Updated: Feb 17


Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as L.A.P.D. Detective John Kimble, who substituted as a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in Astoria, Oregon.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)




4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1990; PG-13 for violence and profanity


Best extra: Commentary with writer and film historian Samm Deighan


SEVERAL YEARS AGO legendary action star Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised CBS late-night TV host James Corden, when he told him and his studio audience his favorite role was from the action/comedy “Kindergarten Cop.”


Earlier in his career, Schwarzenegger had tried to get into comedies. “But I couldn’t, because the studio’s made all this money from the action films,” he told Corden. Finally, the Austrian bodybuilder (four-time Mr. Universe & Mr. Olympia) turned-actor met director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”) and first made the comedy “Twins” (1988) co-starring Danny DeVito. “Kindergarten Cop” came a couple of years later. “I was in Heaven because I worked with all those kids. I mean it was like a great training when I went to Sacramento as California Governor, I had to be a kindergarten cop up there,” he said as the audience let loose a huge laugh.


Universal Studios decided to release “Kindergarten Cop” just three days before Christmas in 1990. It made nearly $30 million in the 10 days before New Year’s, finishing the following year with a domestic box office of $91 million, the studio’s second biggest film of the year, right behind Ron Howard’s “Backdraft.” Its final worldwide gross hit over $200 million. 

(1-3) Det. Kimble arrests drug kingpin and murder suspect Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson) at a shopping mall hair salon. Carroll Baker plays his evil mother Eleanor Crisp. (4-6) Kimble tries to convince Cindy (Alix Koromzay) the drug-addicted girlfriend of informant Danny (Tom Kurlander), to come to the police precinct for a suspect lineup for the killing of Danny.


The late film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were split over “Kindergarten Cop” when giving it a “Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down” during their weekly TV show on Dec. 22, 1990. The duo broke down the storyline: Two LA cops, Detective John Kimble (Schwarzenegger} and Det. Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed), plan to infiltrate an Oregon kindergarten class to discover which of the “tykes’” mother took $3 million in drug profits from her violent ex-husband Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson).


O’Hara, a former teacher, was to head the job, but got food poisoning, leaving the inexperienced Kimble to take on the class. “The best scenes involved the kids,” said Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thousands of children auditioned for the dozen-plus roles. Joseph Cousins and his twin brother Christian split the time as Dominic since child labor laws limited the number of hours a child actor could perform.


Siskel of the Chicago Tribune was less receptive, but enjoyed the classroom scenes, calling Kimble’s kindergarten challenge “Gulliver’s Travels.” Ebert was shocked that Reitman and Schwarzenegger pulled it off showcasing elements of comedy, romance, and violent showdown. “The formula works,” he said. Still, Ebert cautioned parents since the studio was pushing a kid-friendly “upbeat advertising” campaign. “It has a lot of scary and bad things happening to little kids; it’s not appropriate for smaller children.” Siskel agreed, saying, “Take the “PG-13 seriously.”

(1) Kimble and Det. Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed) heads to Oregon to infiltrate a kindergarten class to discover which of the “tykes” mother took $3 million in drug profits from her ex-husband Crisp. (2) John Jacob Astor Elementary on Franklin Ave. in Astoria subs for Astoria Elementary. (3&4) The inexperienced Kimble is forced to be the kindergarten teacher when O’Hara, a former teacher, gets food poisoning. Principal Miss Schlowki (Linda Hunt) and her assistant (Molly Cleator) keep an eye on Kimble and the children. (5) Twilight over the town of Astoria and the distant Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River.



The 4K disc and Blu-ray include two commentaries. First, strangely, with Australian film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, and the second with historian Samm Deighan. Heller-Nicholas starts off mimicking Schwarzenegger’s accent and Nelson joins in, repeating one of the film’s funniest lines. During the second act, Kimble is standing in front of the kids, telling them, “I have a headache.” One of the little cuties says, “It might be a tumor.” Kimble makes an odd facial expression and responds, “It’s not a tumor! It’s not a tumor. At all!”


Knowing the special relationship between Schwarzenegger and Reitman, Heller-Nicholas reads the actor’s social media salute to the director, who passed away in 2022. “I’ll always be grateful that he took a chance on this Austrian action-hero in a comedy during a time when the studios just wanted me to focus on finding new ways to kill bad guys, blow things up, and show off some muscles. I knew I could make it in comedy, but I needed someone else to know it to make it a reality. That’s why Ivan was a great director and friend.”  


Deighan admits during her commentary that “Kindergarten Cop” was a childhood favorite. In so many ways she felt it represented Hollywood in the early ‘90s – “Certainly with the presence of Schwarzenegger playing a cop on the trail of a drug kingpin – in all places, a mall.” Six months later, Schwarzenegger was back on the silver screen, again in a Southern California mall searching for young John Conner in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” She also reveals comedian/actor Bill Murray, a longtime friend of Reitman, and Patrick Swayze, on the heels of his performance in the blockbuster “Dirty Dancing,” were possible picks to play Kimble.

(1) Kimble stops a student from eating everyone’s lunches. (2) Cathy Moriarty who got her start in Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull,” plays a single mother who hits onto Kimble. (3) Twins Tiffany and Krystle Mataras play students Tina and Rina, and they tell the class their mother says their father is a “Sex machine.” (4&5) Emma (Sara Rose Carr) and the other students are shocked by Mr. Kimble. (6) Kimble makes the boys do sit-ups. (7&8) Teacher Joyce Palmieri (Penelope Ann Miller), the mother of Dominic (Joseph & Christian Cousins) becomes fond of Kimble.


Universal Studios and Kino Lorber have done a first-class job restoring “Kindergarten Cop,” scanning the original 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and preserving every ounce of the natural film grain. Not a single shot or scene varies from the original negative. The only time sharpness decreases (very slightly) is during the opening title sequence. That’s normal with composite shots, but here it’s even better than most from that era. Overall, clarity is excellent from foreground to background interiors to the exteriors mostly filmed in scenic Astoria, Oregon, along the mouth of the Columbia River – the same town where Richard Donner filmed “The Goonies” (1985) and John Baldman captured the sci-fi comedy “Short Circuit” (1986).


HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading is also superb, with expanded contrast levels from highlights to shadows and mid-tones, while colors are well-saturated, also showing natural facial toning. The video was encoded onto a 100 GB disc with top-rated video bite rate numbers ranging from 65 Megabits per second to 113 Mbps, averaging nearly 80 Mbps. The HDR10 peak brightest hits a stratospheric level of 4553 nits, but averages 134 nits.  



The original 2.0 stereo soundtrack is available, but most will select the six-channel DTS-HD track, causing the limited effects to bounce to side and rear speakers – especially during the final act. The front soundstage is well balanced with the dialogue and the score from composer Randy Edelman (“DragonHeart,” “While You Were Sleeping”), with its light, orchestral music cues for thematic and comic moments.


This 4K will be a favorite for kids of the ‘90s, especially the ones who grew up watching it on cable TV. Hats off to this top-notch 4K restoration.


 Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1-3) The school has a picnic at the famous Ecola State Park overlooking the Pacific coastline in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Kimble and Ms. Palmieri take part in a three-legged race. The class recites President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. (4) Kimble helps put Dominic to bed. (5) Det. O’Hara warns the students about strangers. (6) Cullen Crisp ends up in Astoria looking for his son.


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