By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
For a comedy looking at the concept of never giving up in the face of impossible odds, Here Comes the Boom echoes the kind of determination found in its lead actor Kevin James. Because no matter the string of flaccid flops, James kept going to the mat with such disasters as Zookeeper, The Dilemma, Grown Ups, Paul Blart: Mall Cop and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Frankly, it’s a wonder James kept showing up for work. But now, Chuck & Larry aside, we’ve got a pronouncement of our own: Here Comes the Boom packs quite the punch.
Though he’s often employed his comedic writing talent to earlier films, here James successfully capitalizes on his charming, slightly sadsack everyman. Playing a biology teacher in an economically foundering Boston high school, James’ Scott Voss has all but lost his fighting spirit in the classroom, and is as apathetic as his students. He shows up late and disheveled to class, not bothering to mask his disinterest … even his attempts to win over the pretty school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek) are half-hearted at best. But when his music teacher friend and colleague Marty (Henry Winkler) is about to lose his job due to lack of funding, Scott shakes off his top layer of apathy as he comes up with a plan. Since he once wrestled in college, the best he can do is try to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. And the more he gets involved in the sport, the more he starts to believe that he just might win.
Other than this film offering James one of the best cinematic showcases he’s had, filmmaker Frank Coraci & co. turns to the personalities of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), making casting coups left and right. Who knew that MMA fighter/trainer Bas Rutten would come across as such a vibrantly funny actor? His #2, Mark DellaGrotte, additionally holds his own. As for the veterans, Henry Winkler hasn’t had this good of a comedic role in years. Even Hayek gets the chance to contribute some physical comedy.
Speaking of physical, Here Comes the Boom depicts eight different fights of varied comedy-meets-reality stagings (impressively shot by D.P. Phil Meheux, choreographed by Garrett Warren). As for the music, the film aptly utilizes a smart variety of sound and style: the orchestral leanings of music teacher Marty, the stupendous pop singing talent of student Malia (Charice, known for her role in Glee) and P.O.D.’s rap metal “Boom,” initially meant to be Scott’s introduction prior to his climbing into the ring. But in an early scene, since another contender had chosen the same song, Marty opts for something else. Hence, when Scott enters the UFC arena, he is accompanied by Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy.” Hysterical.
But note that this revisionist Rocky film is not all slapstick. The idea that U.S. schools are in such disrepair that they have to depend on creative, impassioned faculty members to make a difference is a highly viable theme in these troubled economic times. But rather than, say, the recent Won’t Back Down — so politically heavy-handed that it shoots itself in the proverbial foot — this movie looks at the need for education reform in a far more palatable manner. Even the fact that Scott turns to teaching ESL classes at night, to people who are wholeheartedly committed to becoming American citizens, makes for a rousing message of hope and optimism.
If Kevin James continues to make films that no longer fight his considerable talents, one of these days he just might be able to look back at such missteps as Zookeeper … and laugh long and hard.
Rating on a scale of 5 funny fisticuffs: 4
Release date: October 12, 2012
Directed by: Frank Coraci
Written by: Allan Loeb & Kevin James, Rock Reuben
Cast: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann, Joe Rogan, Charice, Bas Rutten, Mark DellaGrotte
Running Time: 105 minutes