HERE COMES THE BOOM – The Review
Over a year has passed since ZOOKEEPER, so the multiplexes are overdue for another family friendly comedy from Kevin James. Since his TV sitcom ” The King of Queens ” ended James has been a matinee fixture going back to PAUL BLART: MALL COP in 2009. And he’s now firmly established as a member of Adam Sandler’s staple of film stars ( along with Sandler’s old SNL buddies ) as either a headline or supporting player ( in GROWN UPS and its upcoming sequel ) or lead. Since Sandler went for the more adult audiences with last Summer’s under-performing THAT’S MY BOY, James is being sent in to scoop up the pre-teen box-office bucks. The new flick, HERE COMES THE BOOM, is an odd mix of subjects. He’s a teacher, so he can have cute interactions with some youngsters. But a good deal of it is set in the ultra-violent world of mixed martial arts competitions. Can the kiddies handle watching their fave mallcop get mercilessly pummeled in the octagon?
The glory days of Scott Voss ( James ) seem to be well in the past. He was a great competitive wrestler in high school and college. In 2002 he was named teacher of the year. Now he attempts to sneak past the surly Principal Betcher ( Greg Germann ) and avoid being disciplined for tardiness ( yup, the biology teacher is late ). Once at his desk, Scott puts no effort in his work. Then he hears lilting melodies of the school orchestra led by fellow veteran teacher Marty Streb ( Henry Winkler ). But the mean ole’ school board lowers the boom. The school’s budget is exhausted, so the music department is to go on the chopping block…unless they can raise nearly 50 grand! This spurs Scott into action! Car washes and bake sales will not be enough. He’ll pick up a bit by teaching at a night-time adult citizenship study class. There one of the better students, Niko ( Bas Rutten ) , hires Scott as a tutor for the upcoming citizenship test. At Niko’s home, Scott watches mixed-martial arts on TV for the first time. He learns that the loser in a match earned a sweet 10 grand. Well, Scott did wrestle back in his younger days, and Nico could train him. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, of course a whole lot does go wrong, otherwise it would be a pretty short flick. James is basically playing a variation of the likeable schlub from his TV series and previous family flicks. He and Jack Black are the current additions to the long line of , ahem, husky comedy stars going back to Roscoe ” Fatty ” Arbuckle through Curly Howard and Lou Costello to Jackie Gleason and the tragic trifecta of John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley. While Black stretched his acting chops recently in BERNIE, James seems to be content in his comfort zone as a good-natured underdog. He showed what a graceful physical performer in his previous work, but there’s not much of that slapstick here besides a couple of pratfalls on the mat. A sequence in which he does some dance moves to help the kids understand cells seems labored ( these late night bouts seem to reignite his zeal for teaching ). Salma Hayek is brought in as the obligatory love interest as Bella Flores, the school nurse ( I’m surprised that we didn’t see a long line of ” ailing ” young men outside her office ). After her fiery turn as a drug kingpin in this Summer’s SAVAGES, this role was a bit of a let-down. She’s there to push away the self-centered burnout Scott at the film’s early scenes and melt when he battles for the kids later on ( and cheer from the stands during the big, final fight ). The best supporting player may be the former ” Fonz” as a meek music maker turned corner-man and co-trainer. Winkler’s proved himself a terrific bit player on TV recently on the classic ” Arrested Development ” and that little 15 minute gem ” Childrens Hospital “, and here he really brings a lot of comedic energy to his scenes. The script can use his help. Beside the predictability, it introduces subplots that don’t seem to go anywhere ( Scott’s frustrated brother and the smartest student’s Dad that wants her to give up band clumsily crash into each other ). The film makers are so desperate to keep things chugging along that we get prolonged barf gags and a food fight! And there’s way too much in here about the proper ring-entering music! Speaking of fights, the final one ditches the comedy and tries to be just as grim and gritty as any Rocky Balboa bout. Or like last year’s much superior look at MMA, WARRIOR ( it involved a teacher and was funnier, too! ). James battles real life champ Mark DellGrotte, who we know could make mincemeat out of this part-timer. But, not too worry, no gushing wounds to upset the little ones. There could be a really engaging hilarious comedy to be made about mixed martial arts, but James and the Happy Madison brand go for the easy gags ( let’s see that adorable little foreign man again! ) and cheap sentiment ( the last shot before the credits…really guys? ). As far as family entertainment goes, HERE COMES THE BOOM goes down for the count.
2 Out of 5 Stars