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Film / Kindergarten Cop

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Or you tell him you need to go to the bathroom. THERE IS NO BATHROOM!

"They're six year olds. How much trouble can they be?"

Kindergarten Cop is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's earlier comedic roles, following his comedy debut in Twins (1988) under director Ivan Reitman, who also directed this film.

Schwarzenegger plays Detective John Kimble, a cop trying to put away drug dealer Cullen Crisp. Hoping to locate Crisp's estranged wife and son in order to draft them as witnesses, and having no information about them except the name of the school where the son goes, Kimble goes with his partner, Phoebe O'Hara, to find them. Initially it is his partner who is supposed to teach the kindergarten children with Kimble as the muscle, but when she gets a stomach flu on the journey, Kimble has to do it.

Hilarity Ensues when tough guy Kimble turns out to be completely unprepared to take on the challenge of babysitting five-year-olds. Meanwhile, Crisp gets released from prison and sets out to find his family...

While the film was not what everybody expected thanks to deceitful trailers, it helped to type-cast Schwarzenegger as an action-movie actor, and was a box office success, grossing over $90 million domestically on an $11 million budget, good for the top-10 box office of 1990.

It was followed by a direct-to-DVD sequel, Kindergarten Cop 2, in 2016, with Dolph Lundgren in the title role.

Stan Lee liked this film so much that it would serve as the inspiration for the 2021 animated series Stan Lee's Superhero Kindergarten, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Arnold Armstrong, a kindergarten teacher.

What are your tropes, and what do they do?

  • Abusive Parents:
    • One moody child that Kimble suspects of being Crisp's son turns out instead to have a father in his life, an abusive one. After finding a new bruise on the boy, Kimble initially starts beating the living crud out of the boy's father, but when students and passersby appear, he instead decides to press charges for domestic abuse.
    • Crisp doesn't come off too well, either. Despite his claim to love his son, he aggressively kidnaps his son and then holds him hostage at gunpoint once cornered; although, he could be bluffing if he does genuinely loves his son. Also, it's possible his on-screen abusive tendencies are surfaced by his Villainous Breakdown caused by his son not recognizing him.
      • The guy also punches Dominic's mother in front of him, with the old "She made me do it" excuse. Doesn't speak well for his prospective parenting abilities.
      • And we get a hint at where he gets it from, too. Some of the dialogue between Crisp and his own mother suggests that her nurturing was extremely forceful and aggressive.
  • Action-Hero Babysitter: Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cop going undercover as a kindergarten teacher.
  • Actor Allusion: Of course Arnold gets an "I'm back" in the end.
  • Affably Evil: Crisp has elements of this: at times being friendly and charming to get what he wants. However, the fact that he quickly resorts to violence puts the evil in affably evil.
  • Arson Murder And Life Saving: The principal gives Kimble this speech after he beats the crud out of his student's abusive father.
  • Asshole Victim: Kimble decks the abusive father of one of his students. The school principal isn't pleased that it happened in front of the young students... but deep down, she's glad the father finally got what's coming.
  • Badass Longcoat: Kimble sports one in the beginning of the movie, combined with Cool Shades.
  • Badass Teacher: Kimble, 'nuff said. Once he starts warming up to the kids... it's a good idea not to provoke him.
  • Batter Up!: Crisp's mother has an injured Kimble at gunpoint. Cue O'Hara with a baseball bat.
  • Becoming the Mask: During his cover, John really begins to grow close to his kindergarten students. He eventually decides to leave his police job to become a teacher instead.
  • Big Bad: Cullen Crisp, a crime lord on the hunt for his son.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Kimble's partner saves him from Crisp's psycho mother, who had run her over with a car right before the climax.
  • Big Eater: Det. O'Hara. Done with extra humor as she's so small. When Kimble finds out she's engaged to a professional chef he's not surprised at all.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Kimble does this to a room of kids when things got too chaotic, followed by a few smaller shut ups. Naturally, he makes the kids cry, which drives him to run outside and deliver a Skyward Scream of frustration. It's probably the most memorable scene in the movie.
  • Bond One-Liner: "You're not so tough without your car, are ya?"
  • Bowdlerise:
    • The movie was cut for its British cinema release to get a 12 rating; it's also been cut for airings on ITV to a PG version for families (although the complete version — rated 15 — is available on DVD and Blu-ray).
    • US TV airings cut the two uses of "son-of-a-bitch" to "SOB" and "stupid jerk".
  • Brief Accent Imitation: O'Hara uses a Germanic sounding accent when she introduces herself to Joyce as Kimble's sister.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Joyce never stole $3 million from Crisp; it was just an excuse for various people to track down Joyce so that Crisp could find Dominic.
  • Car Fu: Kimble's partner gets hit by Eleanor Crisp's car.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Kimble has a nightmare about Crisp appearing outside the classroom window and wakes up in this way.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ferret. Don't worry, it won't bite you.
  • Chewing the Scenery: SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: Kimble beats the snot out of a man who's been beating his kid. The Principal takes Kimble into her office, and he expects her to throw him out of the school. But regarding the beating, the only thing she has to say is to ask how good it felt to "hit that son of a bitch."
  • Children Are Innocent: Played for laughs when the child of a gynecologist talks about private parts and doesn't see anything wrong with it.
  • Cool Shades: Combined with Badass Longcoat, Kimble wears one before going undercover, à la Terminator.
  • Cowboy Cop: Kimble, before he has to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher. He roughs up suspects, pumps a rathole apartment full of holes with his shotgun, beats up people in the street, and owns a pet ferret in California even though it's illegal.
  • Creepy Child: One of the kids is a boy who is constantly talking about death and dying in a very unemotional voice. And this is Played for Laughs.
    • Two of the girls in the class are twins who speak in unison about how their mommy says that their daddy is "a real sex machine" in the "who is your daddy" scene. John is noticeably uncomfortable.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Kimble vs Mr Sullivan, Zach's abusive dad. One is an ordinary man whose usual victims of violence are a child and his wife. The other is a cop who is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their fight plays out exactly as you'd imagine. And it is absolutely glorious to see.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Zach Sullivan explains his fresh bruises every day by saying "I fell down." Kimble doesn't buy it, and beats up the child's abusive father. He even lampshades to the mother how crappy of a boilerplate excuse it is, and wonders why the parents can never seem to come up with something more plausible.
  • Da Chief: Or in this case, Da Principal. She doesn't warm up to Kimble until the incident where he beats up the abusive father.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Kimble initially hated being a teacher until he started caring for the children. In the end, he chooses to legitimately become a teacher and quit as a police officer.
  • Disappeared Dad: Several of the boys in Kimble's class have absent fathers, which slows down his search for Crisp's son.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Cullen Crisp is a total mama's boy. Of course, his mom is just as bad as him.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Crisp genuinely loves his son. (Though he'll still hold him hostage if forced to.)
  • Evil Is Petty: In the grand scheme of things, Cullen is this to Joyce when she reveals to Kimble that he never gave her any money. When she left him with their son Dominic in tow, he made up a story of Joyce harboring millions of dollars in order to get everyone to come sniffing around. If anything, it also doubled as an act of spite, as it forced Joyce to run away and start over in Astoria.
  • Evil Matriarch: Eleanor Crisp, good God.
  • Exact Words: Principal Schlowski, frustrated at having a police officer undercover at her school for unknown purposes, wants some assurance that he at least has some teaching experience. His response, "They wouldn't have sent me otherwise," is technically true.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Kimble initially bristles at O'Hara being put on "his case," and dismisses her attempts to put together their cover story. After a few weeks of working together, they're close enough that he accepts her wedding invitation.
  • Fish out of Water: A police officer going undercover as a kindergarten teacher. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Foil: Like Crisp, Kimble has an ex-wife who has taken his son far away and cut off all contact, and his son wants nothing to do with him. Unlike Crisp, Kimble isn't a psychotic drug lord and presumably wasn't abusive, and he knows where his son is but chooses not to force himself where he's not wanted.
  • Freudian Excuse:
  • Friend to All Children: John eventually grows into one during his cover as a kindergarten teacher.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Double Subverted. Joyce lives in a Big Fancy House that leads Kimble to suspect that she is who he is looking for. However, he wrongly assumes that she purchased it with funds stolen from Crisp and, as it turns out, she is telling the truth about effectively being a caretaker for someone who lives somewhere else and only uses the place one week out of the entire year.
  • From the Mouths of Babes:
    • The one kid in the class who keeps saying "Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina..."
      O'Hara: [to Kimble, the second time the kid says this] Well, you taught them the basics. That's important.
    • Twin Girls (in unison): "Our mom says our dad's a real sex machine."
  • Generic Cop Badges: When Kimble arrests Cullen in the beauty salon, he is not wearing a uniform. It's a total win for reality that the security guards call his badge in to verify its authenticity. Considering that Kimble looks like a scruffy, insane vigilante, any guard worth their salt would.
  • Gentle Giant: Kimble (and by extension, Schwarzenegger) is at his most human and sincere when reading bedtime stories to his students and laughing/playing with them.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Kimble and his partner trying to turn a witness on Crisp.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Kimble, until the kids soften him up.
  • Good Needs Evil: Crisp taunts Kimble that his wife left him and his son doesn't even acknowledge his existence: "without me, you wouldn't even have a life."
    • Possibly a deliberate echo of a similar line said by another drug dealer to another detective character played by Schwarzenegger in Red Heat.
  • Gratuitous German: Kimble says, "Das macht mich stinksauer! Jetzt bin ich sauer!" (That makes me really pissed! Now I'm angry!) when he has to carry his sick partner (who's largely responsible for her own condition) inside.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Thoroughly averted. After being shot in the leg by Crisp, Kimball is hospitalized with his leg in a cast and immobilized by a sling. Even when he returns to the school months later, he's still limping and requires a cane.
  • HA HA HAŚNo: When the kids laugh at Kimble accidentally sitting on piano keys, he retorts, "Ha ha ha ha... QUIET."
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: After Kimble bursts in on O'Hara and her fiancé the guy covers himself up with a cushion before excusing himself to the bathroom where he puts on O'Hara's robe.
  • Hate Sink: Mr. Sullivan is the father of a kindergartner named Zach, whom he regularly beats along with his wife. When Detective John Kimble goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to find the son of a crime boss, he suspects Zach is the kid because of just how emotionally distraught the abuse makes him. Eventually, Kimble discovers the truth and beats Sullivan into a pulp, only stopping because his class starts watching. Even the school's principal, who was unable to do anything about the abuse, congratulates Kimble for taking him down.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: A subtle blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, but Crisp delivers one of these to the informant before gunning him down in the mall.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: For the first 20 minutes of the film, Kimble looks like a scruffy vagabond with a nice custom shotgun. It's only when he has to go undercover as a teacher that he makes himself presentable.
  • Hero Insurance: Kimble evidently took out a bit of this due to his being an undercover cop.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the end, Kimble decides to stay in Astoria with Joyce and Dominic and continue working as a kindergarten teacher, rather than return to his life as a cop.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: "I'm not a policeman; I'm a princess!"
  • Interrupted Intimacy:
    • Kimble walks in on his partner having sex with her fiancé, thinking she is getting attacked.
    • While hunting Crisp during the finale, Kimble also surprises a pair of students making out in the teachers' lounge, oblivious to the fire alarm not being a drill this time.
  • In-Universe Catharsis: Kimble hits a man who was beating his kindergartner son. After telling him off, Principal Schlowski asks him what it felt like to hit the son of a bitch and he says it was great.
  • Irony: O'Hara mentions quitting her teaching job to become a cop because she was beginning to hate it. At the end, Kimble quits being a cop to become a teacher because he was beginning to hate it.
  • Ironic Echo: During an early scene at the school, a fire drill is performed, resulting in the kindergarten class screaming and acting out while everyone else calmly follows the drill procedure. When the school is invaded at the climax and the fire alarm is triggered, everyone else is seen running around screaming and panicking, while the kindergarten class calmly follows the drill procedure.
  • The Klutz: Phoebe's fiancé, Henry Shoop. He's only in two scenes and is a walking disaster area in both.
  • Large Ham: Kimble, given that when Arnold needs to show emotion, it's never subtle.
  • Liar Revealed: When Kimble and O'Hara reveal to Joyce that they were cops all along, she doesn't take it well to say the least. If anything, it upsets her because she thinks it's going to be more of the same thing as before: people sniffing around and hunting her down for stolen money that doesn't even exist in the first place.
  • Mama Bear: Principal Schlowski is in charge, and she lets Kimble know she's more than willing to blow his cover for the sake of the kids. She also agrees with Kimble that punching the abusive dad was the right call.
    Schlowski: I'm watching you. All I have to do is tell my parents that you're with the police, and they'll yank their kids out of this school so fast we'd have to close. And don't you think I won't if I feel my children are in any danger.
  • The Matchmaker: Or "Love Doctor," as O'Hara calls herself. She actively encourages Kimble's budding romance with Joyce.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Ms. Schlowski first introduces Kimble to the class, she tells him "They're all yours" in a sarcastic, mocking tone. During the final scene when Kimble returns to the class, she again says "They're all yours"—this time in a friendly, supportive tone.
  • Mood Whiplash: When your film mixes cop drama with family-friendly shenanigans, it's inevitable to have instances of this:
    • The cute and funny bit of Principal Schlowski proudly mimicking Kimble punching the abusive parent being followed... by a close-up of a dead girl's face in a morgue. The juxtaposition is jarring, to say the least.
    • There's also the genuine joy on Crisp's face when he sees his son for the first time in ages, a stark contrast to the bastard we've been seeing throughout the film. Then the mood switches again later when he points a gun to his own son's head and any sympathy he got from you before flies out the window.
    • The start of the movie plays out like a generic Arnie movie, with him as a maverick cop, and then switches to a family comedy. Near the end, it veers back into suspense/action territory.
  • Ms. Exposition: Cindy. The girl delivers a very quick setup at the very beginning as the guy pushes her into the hiding place — he already knows what he's going to tell Cullen, so there's really no reason she should be saying this to him except to fill the audience in.
    Girl: I mean, his wife took his kid and a couple of million...
  • My Beloved Smother: Eleanor Cullen's overbearing behavior explains a lot about how her son turned out.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kimble delivers one to a father who has been hitting his son. It's every bit as satisfying to watch as it sounds.
  • Noisy Nature: Kimble's ferret makes the same sort of chirpy cooing sound that has become stock for them in films, yet no ferret ever makes in real life.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Kimble would've completely beaten the living daylights out of the guy who was abusing his kid, had not his students as well as the principal and a bunch of parents with their own kids stopped to watch. Realizing this, he stops himself instead decides to press charges against the guy for child abuse.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Kimble and O'Hara.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • John Kimble starts to become fiercely protective over his students. He sums it up when meeting with a very mean parent — "You hit the kid, I hit you."
    • Kimble's climactic showdown with Cullen which includes Cullen kidnapping poor Dominic and Kimble going after him.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: After Kimble kills Cullen, he still has to deal with his mother, Eleanor.
  • Prim and Proper Bun: The no-nonsense principal of the school Kimble works at has one of these, though eventually, she does warm up to Kimble.
  • Production Throwback: A few nods to Ivan Reitman's directing roles of Ghostbusters were seen involving around Dominic. He is seen with Ghostbusters bedsheets and his laser gun is a part of a proton pack.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Crisp has quite a few telltale signs: he attacks a man in public over a toy, is controlled by an overbearing mother, whimpers and cries when things don't go his way, and blames others for his own sick actions.
  • Real Men Hate Sugar:
    • John Kimble is visibly gargling at the taste of the sweet fruit jelly that the orderlies fed him as he lies bedridden in the hospital. His visiting partner Phoebe points this out to the nurse.
      Phoebe: Nah, he doesn't wanna eat that. He's a tough guy. Tough guys don't eat Jello.
    • They fed him Jello, never mind the fact that his arms worked just fine. Of course, since he didn't want to eat it, the nurse was probably making him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kimble thinks he's about to get one from Miss Schlowski after beating up Zach's abusive father in front of the kids. Inverted when Miss Schlowski compliments him on his teaching ability despite disagreeing with some of his methods and asking him how it honestly felt to "hit that son of a bitch."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Schlowski has every reason to be wary of an undercover police officer like Kimble teaching. That being said, once she realizes how much the kids love him as a teacher (especially when he demonstrates his Papa Wolf tendencies by punching out an abusive parent) she becomes much more supportive despite the strange circumstances.
  • Red Herring: Zach Sullivan, the abused kid, was the one Kimble suspected of being Cullen's kid. It's actually Dominic, son of Joyce the schoolteacher. Also, Joyce never stole from Cullen in the first place.
    • Briefly, Sylvester. Jillian, his mother, talks about how his dad isn't in his life. Kimble zeroes in on this, trying to get the man's name, before Jillian says he left them for a man.
  • Red Shirt: Danny, the informant at the start of the film.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Kimble's relationship with Joyce and Dominic is wonderful, but it's hard not to see them as this for his ex-wife and son.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The ferret. The principal lets Kimble bring it to class because the kids like it.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Kimble brings his pet ferret into the classroom and introduces it as the new class mascot.
    Kid: What's a ferret?
    Kimble: That's a ferret.
    Kids: Ohhhhhhhhh.
  • Shipper on Deck: When Kimble and O'Hara encounter Joyce and Dominic at a restaurant, O'Hara doesn't miss a beat and pretends to be Kimble's sister (despite the plan to actually have them pretend to be married). When Kimble asks her why she did that, she says "Relax, the Love Doctor's in the house."
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Kimble carries one in the beginning of the film. Naturally, he uses it to rough up some bad guys and shoot out holes during a crackhouse siege.
  • Silence, You Fool!: SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!
  • Single-Minded Twins: The twin girls in Kimble's class (see From the Mouths of Babes above).
  • Skyward Scream: Kimble screams towards the heavens after the kids frustrate him again by crying.
  • Stern Teacher: Kimble finally settles on this as a teaching style. It works for him, being over six feet tall and he still manages to have fun with the kids.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Kimble busts Crisp in the mall, the on-site cops don't simply take Kimble at his word that he's a detective, and call in his badge to verify.
    • When Crisp whisks his son away, he tries to encourage Dominic to recognize he's his father. He keeps expecting that somehow their introduction will magically spark some recollection and instantly turn their encounter into a Big Damn Reunion. But Dominic hasn't seen his father since he was a baby and therefore doesn't know him from Adam. Between this and being kidnapped, the encounter just makes the boy more scared and confused than before.
  • Suspicious Spending: Kimble and O'Hara find no evidence that Joyce is using the money she stole from Crisp. It turns out that she didn't take anything from him.
  • Team Dad: Kimble becomes the stern yet protective father figure to his kindergartners once he warms up to them.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: During the climax, the fire activates all the sprinklers in the school building at once.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer tries to fool you into thinking that there's just going to be a few introductory action scenes to ensure you know Kimble's a tough guy, before a movie full of jolly japes about him being overwhelmed by 5-year-olds. It's not. The film is better described as an action drama, with emotional scenes of Kimble missing his own son and falling for a teacher, and a violent drug dealer wanting his son back at any costs.
  • Use Your Head: Kimble headbutts a thug in the beginning of the movie.
  • Villain Has a Point: Crisp delivers one to Kimble at a beauty salon.
    Crisp: You can't just walk in here and put a gun in my face. I'm trying to get a manicure. I have witnesses.
    Kimble: I have a witness, too.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Crisp goes through this after feeling heartbroken that his son does not recognize him that causes him to bring out the worst from him. He resorts to aggressively kidnapping him and holding him at gunpoint (even though he could be bluffing), while stating to Kimble in a grief-stricken frustration that he's his boy, completely dropping his Affably Evil act that he's been putting up to the point he finally sees his son in the film.
  • Villains Out Shopping:
    • At the start of the movie, Crisp and his mother are at a beauty salon, which he intended to use as an alibi after killing his informant while briefly stepping out. He even accepts a manicure before Kimble busts in.
    • After Crisp and his mother are reunited, there's a sequence in which they gather necessary items for once they get Dominic back. Crisp buys a toy for Dominic (by knocking out a fellow customer who refused to re-sell it to him), and the mother and son bicker about her barrage of medication she buys for the kid (including a rectal thermometer and an enema bag).
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Kimble hits one of the parents who beats his wife and son.
  • Would Hit a Girl: While trying to escape the school with Dominic, Crisp runs into his wife. When she tries to get their son back from him, Crisp lets go of Dominic to punch her, then tries to coax the kid back, claiming she'd "made him do it."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once Danny tells Crisp everything he wants to know near the beginning of the movie, he becomes a loose end.

You should probably rest after editing this page, Troper. Worst case, you could've gotten a tumor—
IT'S NOT A TUMOR! Not at all!


Video Example(s):


Kindergarten Cop

Detective John Kimble gives Zach's Father a taste of his own medicine for beating his kid.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / BadassTeacher

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