A formulaic and predictable film, Here Comes the Boom manages to charm its way out of this hole with clever dialogue, good performances and legit MMA.
Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a biology teacher who has given up a long time ago. He is habitually late and doesn’t even attempt to teach his class. The only thing he really cares about is avoiding work as much as possible and trying to win over the affections of school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek). All that changes when school cuts threaten the music department and subsequently the job of his friend Marty (Henry Winkler) who actually gives a shit about teaching music. Scott makes a deal with the administration that if he comes up with the money the budget requires to keep the music program going by the end of the school year then the Marty’s job and the program will be saved. Scott’s ideas stop there, however, and he tries moonlighting as a citizenship teacher in his off time. One of his students, Niko (Bas Rutten), turns out to be a former MMA fighter who now teaches mixed martial arts and Scott realizes that if he fights MMA he could make enough to save the music program just by losing. Thank god Ozone and Turbo weren’t in the class or we might have ended up with Breakin’ 3.
Going in I didn’t expect much from this movie. That it was a Happy Madison production didn’t do much to improve my confidence. I expected a lazy comedy with lowest common denominator jokes and a heavy handed message and I generally wasn’t disappointed on that score. What was surprising, however, was how clever the dialogue was and how genuinely funny it managed to be. Is it going to rank amongst the best comedies of the year? No, not at all. Was it much better than it had any business being given the plot and the track record of the production team? Yes, yes it was.
A lot of credit goes to Kevin James, who co-wrote the script. As mentioned the dialogue is often clever and provides reliable laughs even when some of the broader material falls flat, but beyond that the script does some satisfying things that transcends the cliched aspects of the film. One prime example is that a lot of films like this offer up main characters who are not very bright in addition to being lazy. That is not the case here. Rather than making James a dumb gym teacher (not that gym teachers are dumb, just that Hollywood often portrays them that way), he teaches a science class and is disinterested less because of lack of intelligence or ability but rather because of how disillusioned he has become with a system that seems to have lost interest in teachers and education. When the spark is reignited in him, he proves himself to be a bright and engaging teacher. This was very refreshing as it fleshed out the character while commenting on the state of education without being too heavy handed. Little flourishes like this are found here and there in the film and help give it more heart.
The heart is another thing that is nice about the movie. It has a real earnestness to it that feels earned through the story and is effective enough to keep eyes from rolling. You want to like Scott and you want him to succeed. He comes from a place of apathy and transcends that to try to be something more even if doing so takes a lot of punishment. This is a pretty obvious arc that audiences have seen many, many times but there is something about its construction here that feels more genuine and just works. I think that a lot of it has to do with the characters who are quirky and engaging and who don’t have to overdo it to be amusing. There is no trace of a Rob Schneider style caricature here.
The performances are very well done in Here Comes the Boom. Kevin James gives us a guy we want to root for who, even when he is at his laziest, we understand he is not a bad guy and who generally means well. Henry Winkler does a great job of delivering earnestness without slipping into parody. He is very funny and does it without making fun of the character. The real stand out is Bas Rutten, a real MMA fighter who shocked me completely with his performance. He is very funny and does a pretty great job with his character.
Casting authentic MMA fighters like Rutten and Jason Miller really helped with the fights as well. James has trained himself so the fighting looks very good and makes the matches genuinely exciting. This goes a long way toward making the movie feel legitimate and solidifies its credibility.
Conclusion [7.0 out of 10]
As mentioned, there are a lot of problems with Here Comes the Boom but it also has a lot going for it as well. If you can ignore some of the bad jokes and the cookie-cutter story and plot progression you will find a clever and likeable movie that will leave you feeling pretty good when you leave the theater. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t a great movie but it is much better than it should be at first glance. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price but it is worth a matinee or a rental for sure.