With Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann, Bas Rutten. Written by Kevin James, Allan Loeb, Rock Reuben. Directed by Frank Coraci. Rated PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language. 105 minutes.
It’s time for an intervention to save Kevin James’s career, as he has fallen under the influence of Adam Sandler. He appears in Sandler’s movies like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” and “Grown-Ups” and Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions helps produce James’s solo efforts like “Zookeeper” and, now, HERE COMES THE BOOM. As a result, this otherwise talented comic actor has been squandering his talents on trash like this.
“Here Comes The Boom” is quite pathetic. James plays Scott Voss, a Boston high school biology teacher just going through the motions. When the nasty principal (Greg Germann) announces severe budget cuts means shutting down the school’s music program, Scott decides to do something to save the job of his old friend Marty Streb (a cringing and embarrassing performance by Henry Winkler). When it turns out that teaching a night school citizenship class doesn’t pay enough, Scott stumbles on a new plan: he will be become a mixed martial arts fighter.
It doesn’t matter that Scott in his 40s with his own high school wrestling days long behind him, because even the losers in the big matches can make big money. The alarms about how ridiculous and predictable this plot is can be heard from miles away but James – who collaborated on the script – goes on. There’s a love interest with the school nurse (an utterly wasted Salma Hayek who deserves far better than this). Various subplots are resolved in paint-by-numbers fashion: if a student’s father needs his daughter in his failing restaurant because he’s lost his head cook, expect that Scott’s brother, who took over the family house-painting business, is really a gourmet chef looking to follow his dream.
As to the absurdity of the “sport” of mixed martial arts, which is little more than barroom brawling with no biting or broken bottles, this is an improvement on one of the worst films of 2011, “Warrior,” which expected us to take it seriously. Those who wrote in last year to complain that this is a truly great sport should explain how beating a man when he’s flat on his back – as we see several times here – is an example of sportsmanship. If you think MMA, as it is known, is the greatest thing since an alley fight, you’ll enjoy the action here. Those who have seen past comedy greats like Charlie Chaplin and Lou Costello do comic fight scenes will shake their heads in despair.
The one bright spot in this mess is, ironically, an MMA star who has cut out a movie career for himself. Bas Rutten plays Niko, a Dutch student in Scott’s citizenship class who hires the teacher for extra tutoring and ends up becoming one of his trainers. A glance at Rutten’s credits indicates he’s been around, but this time he makes an impression, managing to be tough, warm and deftly funny all at the same time. Things pick up whenever he’s on screen.
In fact, here’s an idea: Kevin James should get a professional divorce from Adam Sandler (they can socialize in their off hours if they must). Then he should find a project that would focus on him and Rutten. Whatever it is, it would have to be a lot funnier and less painful than “Here Comes The Boom.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.