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Action, Comedy, and a Ferret: The Brilliance (Really!) of Kindergarten Cop

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image Schwarzenegger + Murderous Drug Dealers + Kindergarten = BRILLIANCE! 

SPOILER ALERT! if you haven't seen this, Netflix it now and thank me later.

Normally the films I think are brilliant are somewhat bad (at least according to critics, such as Roger Ebert and Joe Brown from The Washington Post, and my friends). So, when I took it upon myself to write about how brilliant Ivan Reitman’s (Ghost Busters) Kindergarten Cop (1990) was, I was SHOCKED to find out that Ebert and Brown actually found this film to be, and I quote, “slick entertainment out of the improbable” and “Cute with a capital K!” One cannot begin to describe how thrilled I was to read such reviews on a film that I am made fun of for owning…and actually displaying on my shelf!

Without further ado, I, Stella Artois, give you the brilliance that is: Kindergarten Cop.(KC

The film opens in Los Angeles, CA with Detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator) on the pursuit of Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson, There’s Something About Mary); a drug dealer that he’s been trying to book for years. Crisp gets information about where his runaway ex-wife and son live in Oregon from a druggie, and kills him instantly right in front of his girl friend Cindy. Kimble now has the witness he needs to get Crisp behind bars. However, what seemed like an end to the long chase for the truth to come out about Crisp was only the beginning.

Kimble, tough and rough around the edges, is then given a partner, Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed, Jericho), to investigate Crisp’s ex-wife Rachel Crisp (who may have millions of Crisp’s drug money). They set off for Astoria, Oregon and convince the local school (that Crisp’s son attends) that Phoebe poses as a kindergarten teacher to investigate (they changed their names see…). However the tables turn when Phoebe gets food poisoning and can’t make it to class. Now the terminator will have to face the little terrorists! “They’re six-year-olds…how much trouble can they be?”

When Mr. Kimble first feasts his eyes on the hoards of screaming children in the classroom he knows he’s in for a ride. They are tearing the place apart, painting on the walls, and the boys are looking up girl’s skirts with dolls. Kimble has no teaching experience…but he knows how to train deputies. His only way to shut the kids up is to bring in a ferret and treat them like mini cops. Kimble also leads the children in mastering the art of a fire drill. Be Quiet. Line up. Dominic, don't forget the ferret! (Foreshadowing!!) The kids love it and it works. Moving on…

Kimble now starts to grill all of the students to get any clues as to who Crisp’s son may be. Find the son. Find the ex-wife. Nail Crisp. Kimble’s genius idea is to ask the kids…"Who is your Daddy, and what does he do." Some daddies look at vagina’s all day long, others sit in front of the TV, some are real sex machines, and according to Emma, her daddy “works on computers, and he’s the boss of his company and he, um, he has a moustache and a beard, and he-he doesn't have a lot of hair, and cuz-um, since his head is so big, he can't wear any hats.“  Cutest girl alive, and remember she’s not a policeman, she’s a princess! (She’s also the youngest kiddo from Beethoven). 

Once Kimble has a few prospects, he also starts to develop a crush on a divorced and single teacher at the school: Joyce Palmieri (Penelope Ann Miller, Carlito’s Way). Joyce is also the mother of one of Kimble’s students: Dominic (you know that character was played by twins?). As Kimble starts to fall hard for Joyce he also starts to learn that there is more to it than meets the eye regarding her divorce. Not only is he hooked on her, he’s also hooked on the idea that she is in fact Rachel Crisp, and Dominic is Crisp's son.

While Kimble is getting it on while he finger paints, Crisp’s mother Eleanor (Carroll Baker, Giant) kills Kimble’s witness Cindy with bad dope. So now Crisp is out of jail. Kimble needs to move fast to make Joyce – or someone – confess, that way Crisp doesn’t get to her and the boy before they can arrest him, yet again.

When Kimble and Phoebe confront Joyce at a really cute kiddy carnival with ponies and a reciting of the Gettysburg Address, Joyce not only confesses that she was in fact Crisp’s wife Rachel, she also informs the detectives that there was never any money (“you stupid prick”). Crisp just wants Dominic, and that's why they have always been on the run. She then proceeds to flee with Dominic, and Kimble follows. When Kimble finally makes it to the house, Dominic is missing. Rachel freaks but Kimble knows where he is. Could you believe that Dominic actually had the balls to climb up a radio tower to put tinfoil rods at the top to keep the "bad people away"…Time to get this kid a shrink before he starts wearing a pink wig while binging on cheetos and frappachinos, mom. But Kimble comes to the rescue and brings Dominic back down to earth. 

The next day, Kimble and Phoebe attend school with Rachel and Dominic, because remember, Crisp is still on his way! Herein lies a well-placed lesson for the kids about never talking to strangers. As the kids are chanting, "Never talk to strangers" Crisp is in the building talking to the Principal (Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously). He makes up a stupid lie about moving to Astoria and wanting to enroll his child in her kindergarten class. As he is brought to the class, Crisp recognizes his son Dominic immediately. And then, he sees Kimble. So now plan B. It won't be so easy for the douchebag to swipe his kid. So, he sets fire to the school.

As all the students in the building run and scream through the halls from the burning blaze…the kindergarteners are quiet, organized and focused. Remember how hard they worked to achieve that? As Kimble tries to keep an eye on Dominic, chaos ensues and Crisp pops out of nowhere. All of the kindergarteners start to scream “STRANGER” as he runs away with Dominic. These are some smart fucking kids! 

Kimble and Phoebe are now on the prowl for Crisp, with Rachel right behind them. Phoebe gets hit by a car…Crisp’s mother was behind the wheel, while Kimble, Crisp, Rachel and Dominic are all hoarded in the bathroom for the film’s final showdown. Crisp has a gun pointed at his son’s head, and the bitch on wheels has Phoebe's gun pointed at Kimble. As the suspense reaches its climax the ferret climbs out of Dominic's shirt (he remembered the ferret!) and bites Crisp’s neck and Dominic is able to escape his clutches. Kimble then kills Crisp, then Phoebe comes busting in with a bat and beats the Chanel out of Crisp's mother.

Yay…a fairy tale ending. Kimble is the hero. He's wins the girl, the son, and the honor of being one of the best Kindergarten teachers in the history of milk, cotton ball snowmen and naptime. 

Now, to the fun part. KC is brilliant because it brings Arnold Schwarzenegger into a role and world in which we never dreamed of him being in. A classic fish out of water tale. And lets face it; it could have been a total disaster.

KC was the perfect combination of comedy, romance and suspense. It’s not necessarily a kid’s film either (although I was a child when I first saw this, but I was fucking cool as hell). However, some parents today might not go for it. I mean, there are drug dealers, shoot-outs, and sexual innuendo OH MY! Lock them up and put on Hannah Montana (is she pregnant yet?).


Schwarzenegger’s comedic timing and chemistry with dozens of little six-year-olds is flawless. With that notorious rugged exterior and those jaw clenching characteristics we were so used to, it was such a joy to see the Terminator soften up and be genuinely coy and heart warming. Schwarzenegger delivers so many memorable lines: “It’s not a tumor” and “I’m the party pooper” will go down in Arnold-ism History along with “I’ll be back.

I can’t remember a film after KC that had so many brilliant child actors such as these. Not only were they cute and funny, they were actually good actors with great timing. I honestly can’t say that films today would have a little boy say, “boys have a penis, girls have a vagina” multiple times with such comfort and straight confidence. Censored society much? (And yes, the boy who delivered that line was creepy Gage from Pet Sematary: Now, I want to play with YOU!)


What’s a cop flick without the detective falling in love with his witness/damsel in distress? Arnold’s Kimble ends up falling for the ex-wife of his nemesis Crisp. And what's funnier than watching Kimble flirt like a bumbling schoolboy with the teacher in the hallway with the students watching? And it’s classic when he so graciously accepts her dinner date. Arnold is pretty darn convincing when he has to act like he really gives a damn about this woman and her son. His passion and determination to not only catch Crisp but to care for Joyce and Dominic is pretty sweet. 

Another silly romantic side-story is Phoebe and her buffoon of a finance Henry. Merely for comedic relief, but I sure did enjoy it when Kimble pulled a gun on Henry and he proceeded to cover his junk with a pillow and then put Phoebe’s pink robe on. Zexy with a capitol Z.


There are many scenes that set this “comedy” aside from others like it. The film opens with druggy Crisp shooting someone. Kimble goes to a grimy club and shoots the whole place to smithereens. Dead bodies at the morgue. Drug deals. A bitch on wheels grandma… but she’s not that tough without her car, is she?! A shootout in a public elementary school. And then there is Dominic climbing up a radio tower with tin foil trying to keep the “bad people” away. This is some scary shit, it’s rated PG13. Doesn’t look it from the poster does it? Daddy Day Care my ass!

KC makes the grade when it comes to the perfect action-comedy. Seriously, watch this film again or for the first time. All of the pieces fit together to form 1 hour and 51 minutes of pure entertainment. And if it leaves you wanting more of the Schwarz, and not the commando kind, look no further than James Cameron's True Lies (1994). You won't be disappointed. In fact, I think you'll piss your pants because it's so funny and thrilling. Bill Paxton did. (You'll get it later).

The things I learned from Kindergarten Cop.

– It’s not a tumor!

– There is no bathroom!

– Tinfoil keeps the bad people away.

– Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina.

– Keep your ferret in the car for emergencies.

– Always make out with your 6th grade boyfriend during a fire drill.

– Never talk to strangers… but kids and dogs are ok.

– Handcuff your witnesses to dead people.

– Kindergarten is like the ocean. You don't want to turn your back on it.

– On second thought, take the gun.

– Take your toy back to the carpet.

– Knee the dude who bought the last car set in the nuts.

– Ass thermometers rock!

– It felt great to hit that S.O.B! 


What did you learn?