It can be argued that Here Comes the Boom has its heart in the right place. That doesn’t change the fact that it plays like a cross between a second-tier sitcom episode and a rather humdrum inspirational sports drama. It stars Kevin James, looking his thinnest, as Scott Voss, a forty-two-year-old biology teacher at a failing high school in Boston. His passion for teaching has all but dwindled away; he regularly arrives late for his own classes, and not only does he let his students have free reign, he will also tell them that everything they’re learning will never apply to their lives, so they might as well not bother. Curious, then, that he’s motivated to try and raise enough money for extracurricular activities when the cantankerous Principal Becher (Greg Germann) announces severe budget cuts.
Presumably, Scott is moved by the plight of the music teacher, Marty (Henry Winkler), who will obviously lose his job. What makes this especially troublesome is the fact that, despite his age, Marty has just found out that his wife is pregnant. Given the magnitude of this turn of events, you’d think it would actually factor somehow into the plot, if not early on or in the middle, then at least at the end. But it never does factor in, not really; the best we get are a few brief scenes with Marty’s very kind wife, who, if memory serves, is always shot from the neck up. If the filmmakers don’t want the audience to see her showing, why even include a pregnancy subplot? Be that as it may, it’s determined that, in order to save the music program, the faculty somehow has to raise $48,000 by the end of the school year.
Initially at a loss to come up with a plan, Scott takes extra work as an American Citizenship teacher at a night school. Amongst the reliable grab bag of tiresome ethnic stereotypes, who clearly have no idea what he’s saying, he meets a Dutch man named Niko (Bas Rutten), who wants extra tutoring. In due time, Scott is watching a UFC match in Niko’s apartment and very quickly learns that MMA fighters can make a great deal of money, even if they lose. He also learns that, before teaching a variety of exercise classes at a local gym, Niko himself was once an MMA fighter. Putting two and two together, Scott decides that he’s going to enter as many MMA fights as he can and put all his earnings towards saving his school’s music program. Initially, it’s about the money and not winning or losing. But as time passes, his spirit renews itself and he realizes that, if he trains to actually win, he can be an inspiration to the school and his students.
The story progresses from amateur-level fighting to an official UFC match in Las Vegas, at which point the film becomes a who’s who of MMA celebrities. It also becomes hopelessly predictable. But before we get there, there are a series of subplots that not only have no real bearing on the main plot but also aren’t that well developed in and of themselves. We have, for example, Scott’s unhappily married brother, Eric (played by James’ real-life brother, Gary Valentine), who has many wild children and runs his father’s painting business. Within, he secretly harbors a desire of being a chef. We also have a Filipino student named Malia (Charice), a smart young woman whose father doesn’t support her love of Marty’s music class, where she plays piano. As an immigrant herself, she will eventually be Niko’s tutor for his impending citizenship test.
The single most unnecessary subplot involves the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek), the object of Scott’s affection who has thus far refused all offers for a date. Here’s a character that doesn’t advance the story in any way; her sole purpose is to be a romantic enticement for Scott, who’s amiable enough but far too goofy for us to completely invest in him. It doesn’t help that James and Hayek have absolutely no chemistry together. Seeing them paired, one is reminded of the old adage about apples and oranges. Hayek looks as if she’s having fun, but at the same time, she also seems to be dumbfounded by her presence in the movie. It’s not so much that another actor should have been cast in her place. It’s more a matter of the character she plays not needing to be in the film at all.
There are times when the screenplay’s strained humor extends into inappropriate physical gags. Do we really need to see James vomiting all over his opponent in the ring after eating a bad batch of homemade applesauce? Or Hayek resetting James’ dislocated shoulder in one scene and wrestling with him in another? Or Rutten kicking a Pilates ball into the side of a man’s head, knocking him over? Or James jumping off a springboard to make a slam dunk, only to miss the basket entirely and fall flat on his front? If the intention is to be an inspirational sports drama, at least give us a reason to take the material seriously. I have no doubt that everyone involved had the best of intentions, but ultimately, Here Comes the Boom is unfocused, unrealistic, and at times far too desperate to generate any decent laughs.
By Joan Alperin-Schwartz Ten years ago, Scott Voss (Kevin James) was an excellent high school biology teacher. He was even voted 'Teacher Of The Year. .But ten years is a long time. FLASH forward to the present...Scott couldn't care less about teaching. He works only to bring home a paycheck and is completely disillusioned with a school system that treats students like 'cattle'...who's only interested in moving them in and out, … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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