You have seen this movie before. In fact, you could probably write this movie from memories of countless better fight movies you’ve seen over the years. Hoping to be a spiritual combination of Rocky and all of those inspiring teacher stories like Dead Poets Society, the new comedy Here Comes The Boom is insubstantially derivative.
Kevin James stars as a jaded high school biology teacher whose former glory days of college wrestling and being awarded Teacher of the Year are years behind him. But when the cartoonishly villainous school principal (Greg Germann) threatens to cut funding to all extra-curricular activities, endangering the kindly music teacher played by Henry Winkler, our hero promises to raise $48,000 to make up the difference by the end of the school year. While teaching a night-time citizenship class to pick up extra dough, he meets an enthusiastic former MMA fighter and launches a scheme to become an Ultimate Fighter to raise the cash. Thus, the zany hilarity ensues, with the pudgy, over-the-hill teacher getting beaten up and falling down a lot. Ha Ha.
For a story about possibly the most violent sport in America today, this movie stays well within its PG restrictions. Burly men who commonly fight and bleed in seedy conditions never swear. No one acts dishonorably. They treat mixed martial arts as a completely above-board world. And while there are surely a lot of straight shooters in the fight game, it stretches credulity that everyone acts as squeaky clean as they do in this movie. Also, isn’t it telling that the MPAA seems to have no problem with kids watching repeated scenes of burly men violently beating each other, as long as there’s no curse words or sex?
Will James’s character reach his fundraising goal and inspire his students? What do you think? Will he finally connect with the beautiful coworker played by Salma Hayek, whom he repeatedly asks out even though she initially rejects him? I wonder. (Yet again, Hollywood gives us the coupling of the fat schlub and the disproportionately hot love interest that would never occur in real life.) Will he discover a new passion for teaching and will his students give him new-found respect? The answer to all of these plot points is: it’s a movie. In Hollywoodland, things like budget shortfalls and a failing school system can be overcome with good-natured pluck. So of course it will all work out.
While I haven’t seen much of Kevin James’s stan- up before, I’m sure he can be a funny guy. He seems very earnest and good-natured. But how does he keep getting starring roles in big budget comedies? He’s not bad. He’s just kind of generic. Whether he’s a Mall Cop or a Zookeeper or The King of Queens, he never seems to be a particularly magnetic personality. Is merely being pleasant enough to get people to watch a doughy guy fall down a lot and call it a movie?
As far as jokes go, you’ve got a puke gag (pun intentional), several dozen face-plants, and a food fight. Wow. That is some cutting-edge humor. I’ll fully admit, though, that all of this was playing a lot better with the preview audience than it was with me. They were laughing when his trainer gets pummeled by a cheesecake and gasping during the admittedly well-choreographed “big UFC fight” in Vegas during the climax. This is probably another example of the movie snob/general public disconnect that often occurs. People like critics will pan a fluffy movie like this for being simple and dumb. But then the internet will light up with viewers who complain about how reviewers always look down their noses at this kind of comedy. You’ll that constant refrain of “Dude, whenever a critic says they don’t like something I always end up liking it and vice versa. Critics don’t know anything.” While I understand everyone has an opinion, this movie is a case of being generic and nondescript. A year from now the people who defend it this month will have forgotten they saw it.
I wish Mr. James and all of the cast of Here Comes The Boom all the success in the world. I hope they find joy in future endeavors. But with so much truly exciting fare in theaters right now, you can spend your time much more usefully elsewhere.
Final Grade: C-