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"Who is your daddy and what does he do?"
Arnold plays Det. 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 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 food poisoning on the journey, Kimble has to do it.
Hilarity Ensues when tough guy Arnold 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 Arnold as an action-movie actor, and was a moderate success.
- Abusive Parents: One moody child that Kimble suspects of being Crisp's son turns out instead to have a father, and an abusive one at that. Kimble beats the living crud out of him. Crisp doesn't come off too well either, despite his claim to love his son, aggressively kidnapping his son, and then holding a gun to his head as a hostage.
- Action Hero Babysitter: Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cop going undercover in a kindgergarten.
- Alliterative Name: Cullen Crisp, Dominic's criminal father.
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: The principal gives Kimble this speech after he beats said crud out of said parent (see above).
- Badass Teacher
- Big Eater: Det. O'Hara. Done with extra humour as she's so small.
- Big "Shut Up!": Kimble does this to a room of kids (pictured), followed by a few smaller shut ups. Naturally, he makes the kids cry.
- Blown Across the Room
- Car Fu: Kimble's partner gets hit by Eleanor Crisp's car.
- Chekhov's Gun: The ferret. Don't worry, it won't bite you.
- Chewing the Scenery: SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!
- Chew Out Fake Out: Arnold beats the snot out of a man who's been beating his kid. The Principal takes Arnie 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."
- 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.
- That's because most children go through this phase as they begin to grasp the concept of death being something that happens.
- Cut Himself Shaving: One child explains his fresh bruises every day by saying "I fell down."
- Did Not Do the Research: Ferrets were -- and still are, for the most part -- illegal in California. So where did LA cop Kimble get a pet ferret?
- Also, Hilarious in Hindsight as Arnold, as governor, supported the ban on keeping ferrets as pets.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Cullen Crisp is a total mama's boy. Of course, his mom is just as bad as him.
- Fish Out of Water
- Follow the Leader: Every movie in the past twenty years that pairs an action star with a bunch of annoyingly cute kids has this movie to thank for its existence.
- Freudian Excuse: It's not hard to see why Cullen Crisp is so screwed up, considering what his mother is like. But he's such a greasy jerk you really don't feel sorry for him.
- From the Mouths of Babes: The one kid in the class who keeps saying "Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina..."
- What about the twin girls?!
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.
- Good Is Not Nice: Kimble, until the kids soften him up.
- Gratuitous German: Arnie says, "Das macht mich stinksauer! Jetzt bin ich sauer!" (That makes me really angry! Now I'm angry!) at one point.
- Hero Insurance: Kimble evidently took out a bit of this due to his being an undercover cop.
- It does not matter if the Dad was abusing his wife and son - Kimble punches him, unprovoked, in front of students and teachers. He should have been suspended for behavior unbecoming of a school teacher. On the other hand, he's not really a teacher then, and he does release the man of his own accord.
- Hit The Son Of A Bitch: This term is used in regards to Kimble decking the abusive father of one of his students.
- Large Ham: The titular character himself.
- Mr. Exposition: Cindy. The girl is a "Miss Exposition" delivering 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...
- Mood Whiplash: The principal pretends to throw a punch herself, still bathing in the afterglow of John beating the crap out of the abusive father. It's a cute and funny scene and oh holy shit, did they just cut to a corpse's face?! 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.
- Papa Wolf: "You hit the kid, I hit you."
- And don't forget the ending of the movie, which is Kimble's showdown with Cullen, which includes him kidnapping poor Dominic and Kimble going after him.
- 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 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.
- Red Shirt: Danny, the informant at the start of the film.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The ferret.
- Silence, You Fool: SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!
- Stern Teacher: Kimble finally settles on this as a teaching style. It works for him, being over six feet tall.
- Trailers Always Lie: The trailer tries to fool you into thinking that there's just going to be a few introductionary 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.
- What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids?: Don't let the comedy claims fool you. The bad guy gets killed onscreen by Kimble, with multiple shots to the chest. Kimble takes three shots to his body. Some other characters are murdered. There's a kid who is beaten by his father. It's rated R for a reason.
- What the Hell, Hero?: The lengths that Kimble goes to to get Cindy's testimony include shooting up a club, beating up kids in it, and threatening to stalk and harass her until she talks... which would DEFINITELY get him fired, but it works. It's even Harsher in Hindsight when that testimony is what causes the bad guys to have Cindy killed.