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Here Comes the Boom (2012)

October 19, 2012

MY CALL:  This less dramatic and bigger-boned Warrior double-take is sweet and well-intended with poorly written dialogue, but also with perfectly-executed feel-good scenes complete with the occasional guy-cry alert—‘cause every guy wants to be a hero, right?  Unrealistic?  I don’t care!  The writing sucked, but Kevin James’ warmth and solid direction made a believer out of me.  Do yourself a solid and see this mixed bag of warm fuzzies.  [B]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Step it up from cute, feel-good comedy to the real thing and see Warrior (2011).  Want more cute, beaten-up underdog sports comedy?  Then aim for The Replacements (2000).  “Miles and miles of heart.”  Just like this movie.  TRAILERCLICK HERE to see the trailer.

Kevin James (Zookeeper, The Dilemma) plays high school teacher Scott Voss, who couldn’t even be troubled to care less about the young minds he’s paid to mold.  But like Warrior’s Joel Edgerton, this science teacher is faced with a dream-crushing financial dilemma.  Not his own dreams, but those of his career-threatened music teacher colleague (Henry Winkler; The Waterboy) and their mutual  musically-inclined students as budget cuts mandate the elimination of the music program.

Littered with empty plot developments, the movie is poorly edified yet somehow sprouts sweet and moving moments as Voss begins to care more for saving the music program and helping these students than landing a date…with the always lovely Salma Hayek (Puss in Boots; The Savages) who plays the school nurse.  To raise the requisite $48000 he discovers mixed martial arts (MMA), in which even the losers go home with a handsome pocket full of cash.

The dialogue is not clever, the jokes aren’t funny and most of the comedy-writing fails in kind—including a woefully bad adult food fight scene akin to a makeover-slumber party pillow fight.   Physical comedy must save the day as we witness Voss getting put through a meat grinder of embarrassing losses, combat faux pas and, oh right, an unforgettable vomit-in-the-face scene!  Really, it was pretty special.

Where the writing fails this film over and over, good direction and character-acting turns a salvageably serviceable comedy into something unexpectedly special.  The novelty of seeing “MMA Kevin James” fueled our interest and filled the seats; a typical slacker-turned-hero funnyman project.  But as I questioned the comedic value of this flick, stolen moments of sincerity began to carry the movie.  Voss never quits on these kids.  Always ill-prepared but retaining a strong support team, he somehow survives fight after fight on the sheer, pain-sponging, admirable dedication to never let those kids down.

From left: Bas Rutten, Henry Winkler, Mark DellaGrotte, and Kevin James star in “Here Comes the Boom.”

He enters the ring seeking no more than to be well enough afterwards to step up to his next opponent.  But as he fights to protect that which his students love, he rediscovers how much he loves helping and teaching these kids; he rediscovers a version of himself he thought was retired in his past.

Kevin James pulls a “Warrior” and dislocates his shoulder.  Salma Hayek’s got this.

Who’s in his corner…well cast, indeed!  Salma Hayek is adorable when she lets her guard down and, later in the movie, becomes a credible love interest for our roly-poly brawler.  Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg play themselves for the MMA UFC fans.  But most memorable among the supporting cast was Kevin James’ serial co-star Bas Rutten (The King of Queens, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Zookeeper… I’m guessing they had at least some part in dreaming up this story together) as Niko.  This real-life UFC heavyweight champion is presented to us as a yoga and spin class-instructing ex-MMA-trainer never-was trying to earn his US citizenship.  He’s funny enough (for a real ex-fighter), intentionally and grinningly “cute”, and plays a credible, concerned instructor to Voss.

While there is some graphic tandem-elbow-to-the-face violence, parents looking for fun “family night” movies should appreciate this (but let’s keep the kids over 11 or 12).  This movie has all of the cute, do-gooder, Pay It Forward feelings with none of the harsh backlashing reality…  One of the music students helps Niko study for his citizenship exam, Voss helps that student’s dad with his restaurant by getting him to hire Voss’ painter brother as a chef which saves his brother from a failing and ungratifying business and saves his student from being forced to quit band to help at the restaurant, this also helps save his brother’s marriage, and helping the kids ends up helping Voss.  See?  How unrealistically sweet.

Also unrealistic, but also perfectly acceptable and enjoyable to me, was watching Voss ascend the lower tier MMA ranks for a once in a lifetime shot against a UFC headliner: real-life MMA fighter Krzysztof Soszynski (but not as himself).  James, as Voss, looks well- but hastily-trained, yet not unreasonably so.  In his final fight Voss takes a serious beating, earns the champ’s respect, and even I caught myself rooting for him when I dropped my guard a bit to reality. Complete with cliché, Voss does so with his high school kids flown in to Vegas to watch the fight.

For all of the “incredible” and “unreasonable” that festoons this movie, I stand by it as a feel-good flick in which Kevin James demonstrates complete resolve in the face of an insurmountable obstacle.  While in real life, sometimes the “little guy” gets pummeled, this is just the “help your fellow man” tale I needed.

See this. 

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