No Knockout, Here Comes the Boom Wins on Points
- Jeffrey Huston Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 12 Oct
DVD Release Date: February 5, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: October 12, 2012
Rating: PG (for brief mild language, comic violence)
Run Time: 105 min
Director: Frank Coraci
Cast: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann, Bas Rutten
Kevin James (Hotel Transylvania) has built a successful film career primarily playing the sidekick in adult-skewing PG-13 comedies to the likes of Adam Sandler, Will Smith and Vince Vaughn. His short-but-growing list of starring vehicles, however, stands out from the contemporary movie landscape in a rather striking way: they’re live-action family-friendly movies that are surprisingly pretty fun.
To the extent that Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zookeeper are actually "funny" is certainly relative and intermittent, but even when jokes fall flat and gags are dumbed-down, the spirit and charm of a Kevin James performance has a way of making the time go by easy with a smile on your face. Here Comes the Boom continues that trend.
James plays Scott Voss, a high school biology teacher who has lost his passion for teaching. He admires beloved band teacher Marty Streb (Henry Winkler, Click) for his ability and desire to connect with students, but for Voss the motivation is gone.
That changes when the school is forced to make deep budget cuts into the tens of thousands. All extra-curricular activities will be axed at the end of the school year, including the entire music department – and Streb’s job along with it. Voss vows to raise the funds to make up the difference, and is willing to fight for it. Literally. As in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) cage fighting.
With thousands of dollars to be earned even when losing a match, Voss decides to take his experience as a wrestler into the MMA ring and lose/survive his way toward eliminating the school’s deficit. The journey follows a basic formula of training, montages, gritty early fight failures, successes as he goes up the circuit’s ladder, and so on. Not only is James’ body amped up (less doughy, more solid) but so too is his usual “Fat Guy Fall Down” brand. These fights have been seriously choreographed, staged to both athletic and comedic effect.
This mix of comedy and action includes its requisite dose of romance, too, in the form of Salma Hayek (Savages) as school nurse Bella Flores. Along with everyone else, she has her doubts about Voss and isn’t keen to his lame pick-up attempts. Needless to say, she is eventually won over just as we are and ends up in his corner. As perfunctory and occasionally sappy as it all is, at least the familiar story is driven by Voss’s personal growth as he decides to stop being a part of the problem and become a part of the solution.
Not that his character arc is necessarily deep, mind you. It follows predictable narrative beats just as the overall story does, and often too quickly. Choices and changes are made without a whole lot of soul-searching but rather, more easily, with plot-timing. The inspirational moments still land (in particular with the subplot of a female Asian student) but only in the moment. Things exist and occur by design rather than any unique creative expression. Nothing resonates or proves memorable.
The same could be said for the comedy. After a lengthy and somewhat stale setup, the laughs pick up with the energy. Still, even when it’s funny, that’s mostly due to James’ exceptional gifts as comic actor rather than anything inherently smart or witty in the script. This is the kind of movie you smile along with and enjoy but won’t find yourself quoting later on.
Even so, its good intentions genuinely make up for a lot. The fact that the whole experience is so agreeable is a testament not just to James’ ability to carry a film. It also proves how refreshing it is to sit through a feature-length film nowadays (and a comedy in particular) that is so unabashedly clean. Ah, to be able to relax with a theater full of kids, free from the burden of random and unnecessary profanities or innuendos. And to see wholesome (even Christian) values intentionally treated with respect, including the story of how Jacob wrestled with God used as an inspirational metaphor to a pre-finale fight prayer.
James, Hayek and Winkler all play their parts well and are good together. Two MMA stars also make worthy contributions, especially Bas Rutten as Voss’s trainer. He displays as much confidence with the material’s feel-good tone as he does with its physical expertise. UFC Trainer Mark DellaGrotte is also a recognizable face in the world of Martial Arts, and he shows an ease within the ensemble as well.
The movie never quite delivers the boom its title promises. It pulls its punches creatively but still delivers its heart and message with grace, good humor, good values, and earnest inspiration. It’s no knockout, but Here Comes the Boom still wins on points.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Wine is served with a couple of meals.
- Language/Profanity: Two uses of the A-word.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: A couple kisses.
- Violence/Other: A lot of mixed martial arts fighting occurs throughout, but always in the context of the sport itself and never to gratuitous or shocking effect. One instance of projectile vomiting.
Publication date: October 12, 2012