Here Comes the Boom has such a remarkably powerful start for a PG comedy that one wonders what this film could’ve been without the cheap gags that populate a Kevin James film. Taking the sports underdog tale and meshing it with the “teacher connecting with his students” genre, Here Comes the Boom winds up just above mediocrity when it could’ve been so much more. It’s easy to imagine that this film, with a more adult approach to the proceedings, that Here Comes the Boom could’ve been the sort of high brow film Kevin James is capable of making.
Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a slacker of a teacher trying to do as little as possible for students who care as little as he does. When budget cuts leave the one teacher (Henry Winkler) he admires on the outside looking in, Voss decides to do anything possible to raise the money needed. Teaching a U.S Citizenship class he meets Nico (Bas Rutten), a former MMA star trying to become a citizen. From there he decides to try and become a professional fighter, reckoning that even at 42 his first rate college wrestling credentials can lend themselves to MMA success. Fighting in the dregs of the MMA world, Voss has the length of a school year to discover his passion for teaching and raise the money needed to keep the school’s music program afloat.
And for the film’s opening act James has a tremendous story arc lined up. James isn’t known for the high brow nature of the films he stars in, more for pratfalls and such, but Voss is easily the best developed character he’s ever played. We pity him at first, a former star teacher who’s lost his way, but there’s something likeable about him that we know can come out. We can see the man he can be, even if he can’t, and that owes a lot to James. James may not be a great actor but he has a knack for being likeable. He’s essentially taking the same character beginning as Cameron Diaz did a year ago in Bad Teacher and offer a path of redemption instead.
The problem is that once Voss gets on his way to trying to raise money, and become a successful enough fighter to save the music, we don’t get to see any more of this character develop. It becomes an excuse for the sort of physical comedy James is known for, which is a shame. The film can’t match the intrigue and odd brilliance of its opening act, despite MMA icon Bas Rutten being one of the funniest things to hit the big screen in 2012. Rutten has always had a quirky personality when it comes to his professional persona that hasn’t come out in the action-oriented films he’s starred in during his brief acting career. Physically he may be suited for that genre but he has some quality comedy chops that keep a disappointing 2/3 of a film from becoming tedious and boring.
Scott Voss trying to find the spark that made him a brilliant teacher is a much more interesting character piece than Voss becoming a professional fighter. You have to give credit to Kevin James for taking the role remarkably seriously. He got into the best shape of his adult life for the film and it shows. His progression as a fighter makes sense and he looks credible sparring, et al. He just didn’t show up out of shape looking like he was getting ready for a Grown Ups sequel for the film; it gives the film an added credibility that he looks the part of a professional fighter.
It doesn’t hurt that he has a number of professional fighters opposite him as well as the blessing of the premier organization in MMA, the Ultimate Fighting Championships, for the film. Seeing popular and notable fighters like Chael Sonnen and Jason Miller as well as UFC stalwarts such as play by play announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan give the film a credibility other MMA films don’t have. It’s interesting to see Rogan, a veteran stand up comedic and actor, play himself for a change in a film.
Director: Frank Coraci
Writers: Kevin James, Allan Loeb, Rock Reuben
Notable Cast: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann, Charice, Bas Rutten