- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ike most Happy Madison productions, “Here Comes the Boom” isn’t very good, but when compared to Kevin James’ past starring vehicles – “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “The Zookeeper” – there’s no question that it’s a major improvement. That doesn’t exactly make his latest film any less of a disappointment, but it does provide a sliver of hope that James has finally graduated from making stupid, juvenile comedies to ones that merely fail to fulfill their potential. “Here Comes the Boom” certainly had the makings of a decent comedy, but when the laughs come so few and far between that you can count them on one hand, it's not surprising that it leaves such a bland taste in your mouth.
James plays Scott Voss, a high school biology teacher who’s gradually lost his passion for education. But when budget cutbacks threaten to cancel the school’s music program and lay off its teacher (Henry Winkler), Scott volunteers to raise money to save his job. Teaching night classes at the local community college doesn’t pay nearly enough, however, so Scott enlists the help of one of his students (former UFC star Bas Rutten) to train him to become a mixed martial arts fighter after he learns you can make good money even by losing. Though the school principal believes that Scott is making an embarrassment of himself by getting beat up, he quickly earns the respect of his students and the faculty (including Salma Hayek’s feisty nurse) while unexpectedly rising within the MMA ranks.
Though Kevin James has never been shy about acting like a complete idiot for laughs, it’s refreshing to see the comedian restrain himself for once in a slightly more serious role. James is a pretty likeable performer – which is part of the reason why he’s able to resort to such juvenile humor – and if he actually focused on making films that weren’t developed exclusively by him and his friends, he would probably have more success as an actor. It’s exactly because James is so likeable that “Here Comes the Boom” almost manages to overcome its various problems, but he doesn’t get much help from his co-stars. Salma Hayek's talents are wasted playing such a cardboard love interest, and although Henry Winkler fares a little better, it comes mostly at the expense of his dignity.
For a movie about mixed martial arts, it’s also surprisingly light on action. There are a few brief fight scenes scattered throughout, not to mention the classic training montage, but with the exception of the big finale, the sport never really gets the attention you’d expect. It’s understandable why director Frank Coraci would choose to play it safe – you don’t want to be too goofy and risk biting the hand that feeds you – but there’s so little actual comedy on display that a few more jokes wouldn’t have hurt. In fact, it could have done with a lot more than that, because while “Here Comes the Boom” is better than James’ previous films, it’s still not very funny. The movie is actually more dramatic in some respects, and at that point, you might as well just watch “Warrior” again instead.