Blecch Potrzebie: Unsolicited Up The Academy Review

Up The Academy
Starring: Ralph Macchio, Wendell Brown, Tommy Citera, Hutch Parker
Directed by Robert Downey Sr.
1980

Long before they extended their name to broadly unfunny sketch comedy in the mid-nineties, Mad Magazine attempted to conquer Hollywood with this equally humorless Animal House rip-off centered around a military school in Kansas. How bad is Up The Academy? Let me put it to you this way: Ron Leibman, who played the film’s evil Major Liceman (the only adult in the thing who was allowed more than two minutes of screen time), demanded his name be removed from the credits after viewing the mess they stitched together for the first time. Keep in mind ol’ Ronny was in Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood a few years earlier and would eventually go on to voice “The Codfather” in an episode of “Fish Police.”

Ron Leibman wasn’t the only party involved who hated Up The Academy. Mad Magazine’s staff at the time loathed the movie, claiming the filmmakers refused to delete some of the more embarrassing/painful sequences (I’m guessing the part where the Arabian kid prays to a few cans of oil had to be amongst those on the proposed chopping block). Around 1983, William M. Gaines, Mad’s corpulent publisher, paid Warner Bros. $30,000 to delete all references to his magazine and its famous mascot Alfred E. Neuman when Up The Academy was being prepped for air on television. This proved a mere temporary fix—Warner Bros. bought Mad in the early ’90s and immediately reissued Up The Academy in all its original Mad-sponsored “glory.” At least Gaines died before he could witness that that cruel ironic indignity.

Yes, Up The Academy is a complete mess, a dismally executed farce so novice in some places it’s hard to believe Robert Downey directed the damn thing. Terrible edits, plot holes the size of Louie Anderson, and wretched acting from most of the cast (who the hell taught Hutch Parker how to kiss? He was just methodically wiping his lips back and forth on that poor girl’s mouth!). Probably realizing they had the ultimate turd on their hands, the filmmakers pumped up the trendy New Wave soundtrack, which almost saves Up The Academy from being a complete waste of time. Alas, they even managed to bungle some of that—the famous modulation in Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” is edited out, neutering the song and generally making me want to burn Ralph Macchio in effigy.

Actually, Macchio came out of this bitch relatively unscathed. Of the four male leads, he’s the only one who managed to ever work again. Even Robert Downey took half a decade off after helming this waste of celluloid. You’ll feel the same drain if you dare to watch Up The Academy sober and before 4 A.M. on a weeknight. On a positive note, Rick Baker did a great job on that Alfred E. Neuman mask, didn’t he? How did they afford him?

FINAL SCORE: One Screaming Antonio Fargas (out of four).

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