Arnold Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop Performance Proved His Co-Star's Worries Wrong

Is it sacrilege to say I like Arnold Schwarzenegger as a comedy actor more than an action star? Out of all his movies, the ones I've revisited the most are either comedies ("Twins," "Kindergarten Cop"), films that satirize the tropes of Arnold's shoot-em-ups ("Last Action Hero"), or "Batman & Robin" (sorry, my days of pretending I don't enjoy Joel Schumacher's neon-lit queer camp bonanza are long behind me). The other one I've often rewatched is "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," an action movie that's all about subverting expectations by not having Arnold kill everyone that gets in his way.

"Kindergarten Cop," in particular, gets a whole lot of mileage out of Arnold saying things that aren't inherently funny yet somehow become hilarious when delivered in his famously macho style. ("It's not a tumor!") Reuniting with his "Twins" director Ivan Reitman, Schwarzenegger stars as John Kimble, an LAPD detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher in the hopes of finding a violent drug dealer's ex-wife (who's gone into hiding with their young son) and convincing her to testify against him. It's an indubitably silly movie until it's not, like in the scene where Kimble confronts a student's abusive father or the legitimately intense, bloody climax.

Under Reitman's guidance, however, "Kindergarten Cop" usually manages to change gears without fully grinding to a halt. It helps that Arnold is surprisingly good at switching between wearing his action and comedy hats, which also prevents the movie from sliding off the rails. In a 2009 interview with the A.V. Club, his costar, Penelope Ann Miller, even admitted to being pleasantly surprised by how well he handled the task.

'I didn't expect it'

Penelope Ann Miller costars in "Kindergarten Cop" as Joyce Palmieri, a kindly teacher whom John Kimble develops romantic feelings for while he's undercover. Miller had only just costarred in Penny Marshall's Oscar-nominated drama "Awakenings" when she signed on for the film, which she harbored doubts about. It wasn't that she hadn't done broad comedy before (she had appeared in Andrew Bergman's "The Freshman" right before "Awakenings"), but a comedy featuring the star of "Conan the Barbarian" and "The Terminator" was another thing. As she told the A.V. Club:

"That ended up being a big hit, so that's great. Ivan Reitman was a great director to work with, and Arnold was a riot. He was a funny prankster, and someone who was really easy to work with. I didn't expect it. I think initially, I kind of thought, 'Am I doing the right thing for my career to be in this movie?' I just had done theater, and I had just come off of working with Robert De Niro on 'Awakenings,' and I just was like ... Arnold Schwarzenegger? He's, like, the barbarian movies and stuff. [Laughs.] But I think he did a really good job in this film. It was funny, but it also had the suspense, and it just really turned out well."

Indeed, Arnold is kinda like the "Kindergarten Cop" of actors in that he can play the tough guy when needed, yet is just as much fun (more so, arguably) when he's being ridiculous and cracking jokes at his own expense. The film itself was, as Miller said, a bigĀ box office hit, if also one that left critics and general audiences with mixed feelings. Clearly, it needed more scenes of Arnold making ice puns.