Slacker biology teacher Scott Voss (Kevin James) is driven to action when his schools administration announces plans to end all extracurricular programs for students. Voss half-baked plan to compensate for the looming budget cuts? Taking up mixed martia
It’s hard to look at Here Comes the Boom, a mere year after the release of Warrior, and not wonder how the teacher-takes-up-MMA plot wound up rehashed so swiftly. It would seem even more damning if Boom weren’t already committed to recycling a number of other films with its School of Rocky pitch. Warrior managed to pack an emotional punch regardless of its familiar trappings, though, and while this Kevin James vehicle can’t quite claim the same impact, it does wriggles some chuckles out from between the fat-man-fall-down slapstick and teacher-does-good schmaltz.
For starters, writers James, Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben motivate their hardly dedicated protagonist by having him approach mixed martial arts as a losing prospect first and foremost; even the guy who takes a beating manages to walk away with some dough. It’s not a lot, but enough of a start toward saving the jobs of colleagues like music teacher Marty (Henry Winkler, suitably frazzled when not spouting countless maxims) and enough of an excuse for Scott to get close to school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek).
Despite the can’t-miss feel-good formula and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ overbearing score, director Frank Coraci (no stranger to Happy Madison productions after 2006’s Click) and company actually seem to go out of their way amid countless subplots -- secret pregnancies! shame-filled fathers! fund embezzlement! -- to throw in a colorful extra or an odd aside about street parking or child-rearing in a Catholic Boston household to earn some spare laughs. For those left unamused by a viral video of Scott puking mid-fight, these slight touches go a long way to making the rest go down more easily. For every cartoonishly insensitive principal (Greg Germann), there’s an amusingly eager coach (Bas Rutten), and so on.
Ultimately, the film is much too derivative to stand (and deliver) on its own, but at its best moments, it proves amiably average, chiefly due to James’ natural charms. He sells exchanges like “What are you teaching these kids if you go through with this?” “What am I teaching them if I don’t?”, or at least delivers the lines with a straight face somehow, and he fakes taking a punch like a champ. For whatever it’s worth, Boom is a bit better than last summer’s James-starring, Coraci-directed, Happy Madison-produced Zookeeper, and certainly an improvement on the bewilderingly popular Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Perhaps, like our lead, we should consider this less a matter of winning and more of losing well.
It may be formulaic fodder but Here Comes The Booms delivers enough pratfalls and sweet sentiment to make this Kevin James most likable star vehicle yet.