Here Comes the Boom: A Jamesian Struggle
With Here Comes the Boom, Kevin James graduates from playing portly working-class guys who fall down a lot to playing a husky working-class guy who gets punched in the face a lot. It’s a tepid cross between mixed martial arts and Stand and Deliver that’s a cut above James’s usual output, if only because it doesn’t feature a talking gorilla or James pratfalling off a Segway. I don’t think there’s much room to expand the assembly-line inspirational teacher flick, so credit where credit is due: no one tries very hard.
James plays Scott, a disillusioned public school teacher and former wrestler who takes up ultimate fighting in order to prevent his weasely principal (Greg Germann) from cutting funding from the music program and putting his friend Marty (Henry Winkler) out of a job. Scott hooks up with a former MMA pro named Niko (former mixed martial artist and frequent James collaborator Bas Rutten) and works his way up the ladder, all the way to a Joe Rogan-sanctioned UFC bout against one of the most fearsome men in the sport.
Will he win the fight, save the music program, inspire his students, convince the teacher’s pet’s dad not to make her quit music, seduce the gorgeous school nurse (Salma Hayek) and help Niko pass his citizenship test? Based on the usual structure of this kind of movie, he certainly will.
You don’t need me to tell you that a movie that takes its title from a song by Christian rap-metal band P.O.D. (a song that is featured prominently throughout, obviously) doesn’t really deal in subtlety or nuance. Here Comes the Boom goes for the easy laugh every time, and states its moral explicitly several times over in a way that vaguely recalls the work of Tyler Perry; it’s lazy, paint-by-numbers writing that’s basically one step away from going through the script of Sister Act 2 and replacing all references to gospel with headlocks and punches to the liver.
James and co-writer Allen Loeb were clearly more interested in the MMA part of the equation and, for what it’s worth, the actual fights are dynamic and reasonably captivating. It’s pretty obvious James got in shape for the role, eliminating the need to rely on endless shots of him falling down as the foundation of all humour, and the filmmakers have used the UFC’s blessing sparingly so as to avoid making this into a long infomercial. If the same amount of effort had been brought to pretty much everything else about the movie, we might have had something resembling a decent film on our hands. Instead we have something only marginally better than the execrable David Arquette pro-wrestling comedy Ready to Rumble. ■
Here Comes the Boom opens Oct. 12