Lightweight comedy lacking in punch
ID-FRIENDLY funnyman Kevin James is at his cuddliest in Here Comes the Boom. And he has to be. This amusing but sometimes unsettling comedy marries the teacher-turns-to-mixed martial arts mayhem of Warrior to that wholesome family dramedy Mr Holland’s Opus. It works, after a fashion. But that doesn’t mean you won’t wince.
James plays Scott Voss, a Boston high school biology teacher who’s burnt out, habitually late for class and not shy about telling the rare eager student (Filipino singer-actress Charice) that what he’s teaching and what they’re learning ‘‘just doesn’t matter’’.
But he’s touched by seeing that rare colleague who is still inspired and inspiring. So when put-upon Mr Streb (Henry Winkler) and his music program are the first things on the chopping block, after Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) slashes the budget, Scott is moved to act. He’ll raise the $US48,000 needed to save his friend’s job and his orchestra.
Bake sales won’t be enough, as the fetching school nurse (Salma Hayek) discovers. And part-time work teaching citizenship classes to immigrants won’t raise much cash either. But that collision with a collection of semi-stereotypes is where Scott meets the gregarious Niko, played with an amateurish verve by martial artist Bas Rutten.
Niko, who teaches ‘‘disco street fighting’’ classes, used to be a mixed martial arts fighter. Scott convinces this Dutch brawler to train him so that he can get into the ring and get paid for it.
James, Winkler, Hayek and Rutten make an amusing ensemble and click together. While director Frank ( Zookeeper) Coraci does a great job with the fights and the slapstick stuff, there’s too much ‘‘inside’’ stuff regarding mixed-martial arts. Faces show up and the audience is supposed to know who they are. It’s a growing sport, but it’s still a fringe dweller. Most audiences won’t know who Mark DellaGrotte is when he shows up at Scott’s training.
As Here Comes the Boom – that’s the song Scott wants to use as his enter-the-arena music – winds towards the ending we all see coming, the violence of it all can be a bit much. Mixed-martial arts is a bloody, brutal, brawling sport; its fighters are all muscles, tattoos, shaved heads and, in the case of the guy we know Scott will have to fight (Krzysztof Soszynski), metal teeth.
While Boom doesn’t pull its punches, it’s still a lightweight genre picture, a patchwork comedy that makes good use of its biggest patch – Kevin James.
Kevin James in mixed martial arts comedy