HERE COMES THE BOOM
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 12, 2012
Kevin James as SCOTT VOSS
Salma Hayek as BELLA FLORES
Henry Winkler as MARTY STREB
Greg Germann as PRINCIPAL BETCHER
Gary Valentine as ERIC VOSS
Directed by: Frank Coraci
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve liked some of Kevin James’ movies. Sure, “Zookeeper” was a hot mess, but “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” wasn’t the worst thing that came out of Hollywood that year. Even his earlier partnerships with Adam Sandler, like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” were decent and funny before they both fell down the rabbit hole with “Grown Ups.”
Even director Frank Coraci, who gave us the aforementioned “Zookeeper” and the massive misfire “Around the World in 80 Days,” had some decent flicks with “The Wedding Singer” and “Click.” So I wasn’t discounting anyone in “Here Comes the Boom” before I saw it.
The movie is about a high school teacher named Scott Voss (Kevin James) who is seeing his life and career stagnate. When the school announces that it needs to make some immediate cuts, and his best friend Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) and the entire music program is on the chopping block, Scott decides to help out. The only way for him to make enough money fast enough is to start fighting in small MMA matches. With some luck and spirit, Scott finds a way to the top and make some real money.
“Here Comes the Boom” is more of an inspirational sports movie than an inspirational teaching movie, though it has elements of both. Fortunately, unlike finger-pointing diatribes like “Won’t Back Down,” “Here Comes the Boom” actually makes teachers out to be the good guys for a change. There are some stretches in logic and reality that get the film to the sudden need for money, but that’s understandable since it’s not a movie about school bureacracy but rather one about the fight to save people’s jobs.
Considering the type of movie it is, on both fronts, expect plenty of cliches with “Here Comes the Boom.” However, like a good romantic comedy, inspirational sports movie live and die by cliches. It’s all about how they’re packaged.
What actually makes “Here Comes the Boom” work isn’t the set-up and pay-off, but rather the heart behind it. Sure, it’s cheesy and corny at times, but it’s a feel-good movie that can actually make you feel good. Even the perceived villain, the sour principal who is gunning for Scott’s job, is ultimately someone who is just trying to do the right thing.
The anchor of the film is James, who plays the everyman well, having built a strong career out of it. Why I like him better than his buddy Adam Sandler is that Sandler usually plays the dolt in extreme situations where James plays a realistic and sympathetic guy in a somewhat normal – if not off-kilter – story. Whether he’s a would-be romantic in “Hitch” or an overzealous working stiff in “Paul Blart,” there’s soemthign relateable about him.
As a teacher movie, James plays Scott as a passionate teacher who actually likes dealing with kids. He tends to make friends with everyone, which is how he manages to find someone to train him in MMA. And as a sports movie, it’s a film where you can get behind the underdog. And considering that MMA is the new boxing, it works as a modern “Rocky” film. It has a ludicrous premise, but “Here Comes the Boom” brings the mainstream into the MMA ring better than we’ve seen before.
Here’s where I break with many reviewers over the past year. I felt the MMA advertising platform known as “Warrior” from last year was a sappy, overwritten, poorly characterized and boring film. It didn’t just rely on cliches to tell the story. The cliches were the story, from beginning to end. Conversely, “Here Comes the Boom” puts a unique – and often humorous – spin on the sport. And that’s what makes “Here Comes the Boom” superior to “Warrior” in every way.
Plus, it’s a fun family film. It’s not too sanitized, with some crass humor and slapstick moments. These fit into the story well enough, which really pleased the younger members of the audience in which I saw the film.
Honestly, I was surprised that I enjoyed “Here Comes the Boom” as much as I did. Sometimes movies like this can do that, and that’s a good thing.