While undercover, Kimble discovers his passion for teaching and considers changing his profession to become an educator. Pamela Reed plays his partner, Phoebe O'Hara, and Penelope Ann Miller plays Joyce, the teacher who becomes his love interest. The original music score was composed by Randy Edelman. The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 1, 1991, and topped the country's box office that weekend.
After years of pursuing drug lord Cullen Crisp, LAPD Detective John Kimble finally has him on a murder charge after Crisp kills an informant who gives him information regarding the whereabouts of his former wife Rachel Myatt Crisp and son Cullen, Jr.
Accompanied by detective and former teacher Phoebe O'Hara, Kimble goes undercover in Astoria, Oregon, to find Crisp's former wife who allegedly stole millions of dollars from Crisp before fleeing. The detectives plan to offer her immunity in exchange for testifying against Crisp in court. To find Crisp's former wife, O'Hara is to act as the substitute teacher in Cullen Jr.'s kindergarten class at Astoria Elementary School.
Unfortunately, the hypoglycemic O'Hara gets a terrible case of stomach flu and falls ill at the last moment, so Kimble takes the teacher's job. The suspicious school principal Miss Schlowski is convinced Kimble will not last long before quitting. Though overwhelmed at first, Kimble adapts to his new status, despite not having any formal teaching experience or training. Using Kimble's pet ferret as a class mascot, his police training as a model for structure of the classes, his experience as a father, and positive reinforcement, he becomes a much-admired and cherished figure to the children.
In turn, Kimble begins to enjoy his undercover role. He also deals with a case of child abuse, eventually punishing Zach Sullivan's father for abusing his son and winning Schlowski's favor. She witnesses Kimble's teaching style throughout and assures him that though she does not agree with his methods, she can see that he is a good teacher. Kimble becomes fond of his student Dominic's mother, Joyce Palmieri, who also works at the school. Joyce is estranged from her husband and will not speak of him, and she tells Dominic that he lives in France.
After a series of conversations with the gradually more trusting Joyce, Kimble slowly deduces that she is Rachel Crisp and that Dominic is Cullen Jr. Back in California, the witness to the informant's murder dies after using spiked cocaine provided by Crisp's mother, Eleanor, closing the case because the prosecution has no further evidence. Crisp is liberated from prison and immediately travels to Astoria with his mother to search for Dominic. When Kimble learns Cullen has been released, he confronts Joyce about her identity, saying he can protect her if she cooperates. She is angry he has lied to her and admits Cullen lied about her stealing money to convince drug dealers he knows to help him, when the real reason he sought out help from the informant was to find his son, as he was angry that his wife disappeared with him.
Once at the school, Crisp starts a fire in the school library in order to get to Dominic and holds him hostage after being discovered. Luckily, Kimble's ferret bites Crisp on the neck, allowing Dominic to escape. Crisp shoots Kimble in the leg, then Kimble fatally shoots Crisp in the chest three times, killing him. Eleanor also wounds Kimble in the shoulder and discovers her dead son, but an enraged O'Hara (having been run over previously by Eleanor) vengefully attacks and beats her unconscious with a baseball bat before she can kill Kimble.
Eleanor is arrested, while the unconscious Kimble is hospitalized. Some time later, Kimble returns to the school and the kindergarteners cheer as Kimble and Joyce share a kiss.Arnold Schwarzenegger as Detective John Kimble: a tough and divorced Austrian-born LAPD street cop who is forced to take an undercover assignment as a kindergarten teacher, leading him to consider changing his profession once he discovers his passion for teaching. In contrast with his partner, Kimble hates his career as a police officer, as it has ruined his relationship with his son and caused his divorce.
Penelope Ann Miller as Joyce Palmieri/Rachel Myatt Crisp: a teacher whom Kimble falls for, but who is also Crisp's former wife. She has a young son, Dominic, who is in Kimble's kindergarten class.
Pamela Reed as Detective Phoebe O'Hara: Kimble's partner and a former school teacher who gets food poisoning, forcing Kimble to cover for her on the assignment. She briefly poses as his sister, Ursula Kimble. O'Hara and Kimble resent being paired with each other initially, but ultimately become good friends. In contrast with Kimble, O'Hara hates teaching, which is why she changed her profession and became a policewoman.
Linda Hunt as Miss Schlowski: the school principal. Though initially suspicious of Kimble, she eventually grows to respect him after seeing his compassion towards the children and the excellent results of his teaching.
Richard Tyson as Cullen Crisp, Sr.: a drug kingpin who is obsessed with tracking down his former wife and son.
Carroll Baker as Eleanor Crisp: Crisp's overbearing mother and accomplice.
Christian and Joseph Cousins as Dominic Palmieri/Cullen Crisp, Jr.: Joyce and Crisp's son who grows close to Kimble.
Cathy Moriarty as Jillian: a divorced mother whose husband left her and their young son, Sylvester, for his male romantic partner. She fears that her son may share his father's homosexuality.
Jayne Brook as Zach's mother: Kimble first suspects Zach might be Cullen Jr. before learning that both his parents are present, but in a domestic violence situation. Kimble confronts them and threatens to press charges against the father for child abuse if he sees any further signs.
Park Overall as Samantha's Mother
Richard Portnow as Captain Salazar: Kimble and O'Hara's boss.
Bob Nelson as Henry Shoop: O'Hara's fiancé who also befriends Kimble.
Angela Bassett appears as a flight attendant in the airplane.
Along with the Cousin twins, who played Dominic Palmieri/Cullen Crisp, Jr., the child actors in the kindergarten class included:Justin Page as Zach Sullivan, a shy student in the class living with domestic violence at home
Sarah Rose Karr as Emma
Marissa Rosen as Samantha
Miko Hughes as Joseph, a wise and intelligent anatomy-loving boy who enjoys sharing to others about anatomical differences between boys and girls, which he apparently learned from his father who is a gynecologist. His attitude and wisdom, which draws the class' laughter, is always commended by Kimble (evident when Kimble first hears it and sarcastically says "Thanks for the tip" and when he chuckles after hearing it for the second time).
Ben Diskin as Sylvester, Jillian's son who likes looking under girls' skirts using their dolls, which she approves because of his father's sexuality
Krystle and Tiffany Mataras as identical twins Tina and Rina. They later played the daughters of one of the antagonists in Problem Child 2.
Odette Yustman as Rosa, a Hispanic American in the class. Now known as actress Odette Annable in House and Cloverfield.
Director Reitman's daughter, Catherine Reitman, played a third grade student, while his teenage son, future director Jason Reitman, played the kissing boy, who stayed in the school during the climatic fire scene. Brian Bruney appeared as an extra in a fire drill scene.
Bill Murray, Patrick Swayze, and Danny DeVito were all approached to play the role of John Kimble.
Exterior scenes at Astoria Elementary School were filmed at John Jacob Astor Elementary School, located at 3550 Franklin Ave. in Astoria, Oregon.
Universal Studios hired local artists Judith Niland and Carl Lyle Jenkins to paint murals on the walls at Astoria, and provided new playground equipment, a fenced playground, and a new lawn and hedges around the school building. Most of the filming was completed after school was out in June 1990 allowing many of the students and staff to be extras in the movie. Students' artwork was also used.
Schwarzenegger's contract stipulated that a private studio for daily workouts and weightlifting be provided for the actor and his personal staff; a suitable studio was located, but when an agreement could not be reached, the actor threatened to pull out of the production. An Astoria business owner stepped in and donated unused commercial space deemed suitable for Schwarzenegger and the shoot continued.
Also filmed in or near Astoria:John and Phoebe stayed at the Bayview Motel, 783 W. Marine Drive. The vintage lodging facility "played itself" in the film.
Scenes involving John and Phoebe walking to dinner, and Crisp and his mother shopping, were filmed on Commercial Street in downtown Astoria.
The exterior portions of the restaurant scene were filmed outside the Seafare Restaurant at the Red Lion Inn, 400 Industry St.
Scenes at Joyce and Dominic's house were filmed at a private residence located at 414 Exchange St.
Highway scenes were filmed on U.S. 26 east of Seaside, Oregon, twenty miles from Astoria.
The school picnic was filmed at Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon, twenty five miles south of Astoria.
Information on Astoria area locations are courtesy of the Astoria & Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Interior school scenes were shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood. The film's opening scene was filmed at the Westfield MainPlace in Santa Ana, California, and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 51%, based on 35 reviews. On Metacritic, it has a score of 61 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Reviewer Caryn James of The New York Times said, "Like Twins, which was also directed by Ivan Reitman, nothing in the film is as funny as the idea of it."
In Kim Newman's review for Empire, he wrote, "with a heart of purest mush, the film still manages to be generally entertaining" and gave it 3 stars out of 5. An EW.com review at the time of release notes that: "the movie never quite gels and it is not going to generate quite the mega-hit business their producers are counting on," giving the movie a 'C' grade. Roger Ebert said the movie: "is made up of two parts that shouldn't fit, but somehow they do, making a slick entertainment out of the improbable, the impossible and Arnold Schwarzenegger" and awarded the film three stars.
On April Fool's Day 2012, as a prank, it was announced that the film was selected for a release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc as part of the Criterion Collection, a video-distribution company dedicated to the release of "important classic and contemporary films". It was said to be selected as important in part because of its genre-revisionist use of both the policier and family comedy genres in the same film. It was officially released on Blu-ray on July 1, 2014.
Despite the mixed reviews, the film was a box office success and has grossed $91.4 million in North America, $110.5 in other territories, and $202 million worldwide.
In June 2015, Showbiz 411 announced that the studio's 1440 division were developing a sequel to the film, with Don Michael Paul as director and David H. Steinberg as scriptwriter. The protagonist now have an Indian sidekick named Sanjit, and they are now searching for a flash drive that has been stolen from the United States Federal Witness Protection Program. The antagonists are now Albanian.
Showbiz 411 also caused speculation that a television series may be being considered. Dolph Lundgren was seen shooting scenes for the film. The sequel is called Kindergarten Cop 2.