Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy (1980)

§ August 6th, 2007 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy (1980)

So the Mad Magazine content of the 1980 feature film Mad Magazine Presents Up The Academy is essentially the following:

1. It says “Mad Magazine Presents” at the beginning of the film (the title of the film is also presented in the Mad logo font):

2. A live-action Alfred E. Neuman appears at the close of the opening credits (reprised for the closing credits), courtesy of a fellow in what may be the most disturbing face mask of all time:

3. At the end of the film, as our main cast drives down the road into the sunset, they pass by our live action Alfred E. Neuman, who waves goodbye to the audience:

4. …And also has some parting words of wisdom:

5. There’s also a statue of Alfred E. Neuman involved, somewhere, but unless I blinked or was otherwise distracted or something, that statue never appears in the film itself. It’s there in the trailer, though:

Now, I hadn’t seen this film in years…like, twenty-five years at the very least, catching it on cable when I was but a young Mikester, and I could remember virtually nothing about it. The only gag from the film I remembered was the antagonist, Major Liceman, getting ready for the evening, and putting condoms in his wallet…giving one to his pet dog, as apparently the dog was expecting a little action from the ladies as well.

In the intervening years since I’ve originally seen the film, I learned that Mad’ s publisher William Gaines wanted nothing to do with the film, and demanded all references to the magazine be edited out. (And apparently, that was screwed up anyway, as some unedited versions of the film were distributed internationally.) And, of course, there was that two-page parody Mad itself did of the film, allegedly cut short by editorial because the film itself was so awful.

I’d somehow discovered recently that the film has since been rereleased on DVD, with the cuts restored, so I thought I’d give it a Netflixing and see how bad it was.

Oh, Lordy.

It’s one of the many, many Animal House knock-offs rushed out in the wake of that films success, in which a bunch of misfits take on the Establishment at whatever college/camp/high school/etc…in this case, a military academy. It’s only marginally funny, with fart jokes and an offensive stereotype or two (Tom Poston…Tom Poston…as a gay caricature, taking a little much joy in checking young men’s inseams for uniforms, among other uncomfortable moments). The Karate Kid‘s Ralph Macchio makes his screen debut here, as a standoffish tough guy sent to the school to be straightened out, and finds himself bunked up with a bunch of other outcasts (the politician’s son, the preacher’s son, the larcenous son of an Arabian Sheik). They’re under the oppressive, watchful eye of Major Liceman (played by Ron Leibman, who, perhaps wisely, had his name removed from the credits).

Here, have a pic of Leibman as Liceman:

The thing about Liceman is that he doesn’t come across as particularly evil or nasty…yeah, he’s kind of a jerk, but that’s hardly deserving of the utterly humiliating “revenge” the kids exact upon him at the climax of the film. True, he had done a few unpleasant things to them during the course of the movie, but one could argue the kids provoked him with their own misbehavior and troublemaking. He just seems kind of sad and lonely…he gives a big speech about how he only found friendship at the academy, the only place he felt he belonged, which colors how we see him through the rest of the film.

Okay, he’s not a good guy…but he’s not entirely unsympathetic, either. He’s not the irredeemably evil Neidermeyer from Animal House, in other words.

More jokes fail than work, but there is one solid gag I enjoyed. During a reception, a group of hideously off-key singers massacre a song, causing listeners to double over in pain from the sound, as well as busting glasses, bringing down buildings (via stock footage), and shattering the film itself (as the picture breaks apart and falls to the bottom of the screen). More of that type of humor would have been welcome.

Surprisingly, despite the bad jokes and other problems, the film remains halfway watchable. The actors do their best with what they’re given, it all moves along at a reasonable enough pace, and the soundtrack, which almost never lets up for the 90-minute duration of the film, is pretty damn good. Iggy & the Stooges, Pat Benatar, Cheap Trick, the Kinks, Blondie, Lou Reed, and plenty of others; check it out. It’ll never happen, but a CD release of the soundtrack would be welcome.

It’s just none of it has very much to do with Mad Magazine, really. I mean, aside from Alfred’s cameos. But what was I expecting…animated short “The Lighter Side of…” gags? Sergio’s Marginals running up and down the edges of the screen? At least one gratuitous use of the word “Potrzebie?” Fold-In: The Movie? Maybe something a little more like the early seasons of MADtv, with outright pop culture parodies with interspersed “Spy Vs. Spy” and Don Martin cartoons?

Anyway, there it is…Mad Magazine Presents Up the Academy. Not a good movie, but an interesting product of its time. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I should note that it’s directed by Robert Downey, Sr. You know, Iron Man‘s pop. Don’t that beat all.

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