Kevin James stars in “Here Comes the Boom” as a fledgling mixed martial arts fighter battling for a cause in an all-ages comedy that will likely please its intended audience.
James (“King of Queens”) stars as Scott Voss, a biology teacher who 20 years ago, was a Division I college wrestler.
Scott is without motivation; 10 years ago, he was teacher of the year, but now, he's going through the motions. All of Scott's best days seem behind him, as he trudges through his classes.
When cutbacks at the school threaten the music program run by Scott's friend Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), Scott finds himself volunteering to find a way to save the program. Along the way, he hopes to impress the school nurse, Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), who consistently and persistently turns down Scott's requests for a date.
The school needs $48,000 to save the program, and Scott's first attempts don't get far. After trying to raise money teaching citizenship classes, he stumbles upon a different idea while tutoring former MMA fighter Niko (Bas Rutten).
Scott decides he'll get back in shape and become an MMA fighter. If he can make it to a top-level Ultimate Fighting Championship fight, he can bring down $10,000 of the money just for losing.
Niko thinks this is a bad plan, but eventually gets on board to train Scott. As Scott works his way up the MMA ladder, he becomes a school sensation, not necessarily for his fighting form, but for his dedication to the cause. Along the way, Scott finds the drive he once had for teaching reigniting inside him.
Mixing elements from films like “Nacho Libre” and “School of Rock,” James in this film is the lovable schlub who rediscovers his passion. This is all a little unbelievable, but it's done with a fair amount of humor. Winkler and James have good chemistry as the friends going against long odds to save the program. And if it has a bit of a sitcom feel in places, at least two of the best at that format are involved. Veteran director of Adam Sandler comedies Frank Coraci (“Wedding Singer”) helms the film, as he did “The Zookeeper.” But this movie is a step up from James' recent all-ages fare.
The cameos from UFC personnel and fairly realistic take on the sport should please those fans. Despite some in-ring violence, this film is appropriate for all but the youngest viewers.
Ultimately, “Here Comes the Boom” mixes the sports-film and education-film genres to come up with a blend that will likely please audiences, if not critics.
— Matthew Price