HERE COMES THE BOOM Review

Here Comes the Boom is an easy movie to hate on. It is a film that is centered around a school teacher played by Kevin James who becomes an MMA fighter to save his schools music program. It features many a constant players from Adam Sandler's group of friends and it plays out as predictably as you know it will after seeing the trailer. It isn't a surprise at all to see most critics bashing the film for its lack of creativity but what it lacks in that department it makes up for with pure virtue. At the very least I can applaud Mr. James and company for not having to resort to making R-rated comedies in order to please a demographic they clearly have no interest in making money from. James seems to know his place (even if I, personally, was hoping for more from him) in the Hollywood landscape and in taking on this role he has delivered a live action family film that no matter how absurd the story is delivers in entertainment value and teaches many a well worn lessons. Yes, it is surely very easy to dismiss a film that so competently makes use of a P.O.D record but give it the benefit of acknowledging that they didn't use it in the trailer and didn't overdue it within the actual film. No matter how much the movie feels like an hour and forty-five minute ad for VH1's Save the Music program I simply can't see how one could come out hating the film because the people putting it on are just so likable. It is a crowd-pleaser that is as calculated as it is predictable, but it pleases nonetheless and for that I will more than likely watch the film again at some point in my life. That's much more than I could ever say about Zookeeper.

Scott (Kevin James) and Marty (Henry Winkler) discuss
a plan to save the music program.
Besides addressing issues of how much music enriches our lives and how it is vital to the learning process of kids Here Comes the Boom also likes to touch on issues such as the failing school system, immigration, accomplishing your dreams, and of course, standing up for what you believe in. These are all fine and dandy and the movie is able to present them in a world that isn't as far removed from reality as one would imagine it would be when the plot concerns a 42 year-old biology teacher becoming an mixed martial arts fighter. We meet Mr. Scott Voss (James) on an average school morning where he has fallen far from the graces of his "Teacher of the Year" days. Voss is later to class than his students and when he does arrive he stays hidden behind his desk having his students do little more than  continue reading their text books which only the one student who knows how lucky she has to have a chance at an education actually takes advantage of. When the school decides it has to make cuts though the first thing to go is the music program, led by what seems to be the only passionate teacher left in the place, Marty. As Marty, Henry Winkler does some terrific work here. It is not only fun to watch the Fonz really accept and act his age but Winkler still exudes such a charisma and a charm that is undeniable. he has become a staple in these Sandler productions of small bit roles that really never amount to anything but here he gets the opportunity to truly develop a character and he runs with it while delivering what is undeniably the most genuine and heartfelt part of the entire film.

That plan turns into Scott becoming a successful MMA
fighter. Highly unlikely, but very entertaining.
That is not to berate James though, the guy displayed through nine seasons of King of Queens that he had a knack for comedy and a natural presence of the everyman that has turned him into a figure on the screen that despite his lack of quality projects has made him someone who everyone likes regardless. He has so far escaped that kind of stigma his friend Sandler has acquired over the past few years and with Here Comes the Boom he at least looks towards a future that has him carving out his own niche rather than pandering to the demands of what others think he should be doing. James is a talented guy and someone I would certainly like to see do something a bit more mature, but his venture into that with Vince Vaughn and Ron Howard didn't turn out to well. One can almost not blame him for retreating to the safe zone of Sandler produced comedies, and I say that as someone who still likes to give the sand man the benefit of the doubt. The good news is that while this movie is as formulaic as it could possibly be it takes these standard elements and infuses life into them with a spirit that can be seen in each and every person on screen. Whether it be James himself, who is a ringleader of fun, Salma Hayek who drops her self serious facade and lets herself have a little fun with a role that has her and James hooking up (yes, the love story is as outlandish as the main plotline) is played as a cute through line of a joke across the film. Joe Rogen shows up in a few scenes as himself and Gary Valentine who most will recognize from King of Queens as well has several nice moments as Scott's brother. Another scene-stealer goes to Bas Rutten as Niko, a former UFC fighter who has moved the U.S. and is taking part in Scott's citizenship classes. Niko is of course picked up to help him train and Marty is there for moral support and when Rutten and Winkler share the screen you will know what I mean when I say it's hard to dislike the film due to its pleasing personality.

Scott also has a lot on his plate when trying to impress
the school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek). 
I was surprised to find that director Frank Coraci was the same guy behind the aforementioned stinker that James starred in last year and has before directed Sandler's Click (another that had real heart despite its worn premise). Coraci shows real control here documenting what were surely challenging fight scenes and makes the distinct choice to have a kind of darker lighting situation to the whole thing. It gives the movie a better sense of grit and realness that usually escapes a film intended for the audience I imagine this will attract. It is an attractive choice and I personally very much enjoyed the way that the movie was able to use its stock structure and fill it with moments that while predictable reminded us of why it felt good to feel the way they made you feel. In last years Warrior we saw a film that took what could have been a cheesy triumph of a sports tale and turned it into something that was truly moving. While I am in no way comparing these two films (Warrior is vastly superior in every way) but the care that was put into the story each of these movies were telling is evident. That care is what helped both of them to overcome the standards that audiences assumed they would be seeing when the trailer appeared for each. The fact they both deal with MMA fighting is just a case of it being a highlight of pop culture in this day and age. As there are and will always be sports films it is nice to see a children's sports movie back on the scene (even if it isn't technically kids playing the sport, but how would they do that with this sport?) and I imagine that anyone who has a desire to go out and see this film will get exactly what they bargained for if not a little more. It's hard to be a cynic when a heart is so pure and honest. Here Comes the Boom relays that feeling; it would have been a worn out VHS had this come out when I was a kid.