In the comedy Here Comes the Boom, former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old apathetic biology teacher in a failing high school. When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program and lay off its teacher (Henry Winkler,) Scott begins to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks Scott is crazy - most of all the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek) - but in his quest, Scott gains something he never expected as he becomes a sensation that rallies the entire school.
The improbable idea that Kevin James could be a professional UFC fighter is not lost on the viewer in his newest comedy Here Comes The Boom. In fact, it is the ongoing joke of the film, and as much as someone may want to hate the entire concept of the movie it manages to pull at your heartstrings enough with its inspirational story. This is of course occurring as Kevin James' character Scott Voss is having his body beaten by men years younger, leaner, and with much better fighting form. Here Comes The Boom uses the ridiculousness of placing a character such as Scott Voss in the ring with real MMA fighters to keep the momentum going for laughs, and Kevin James continues his streak of movies that focus on humiliating him more than once to get the audience to laugh. The formula works, and Here Comes The Boom even has a great deal to say about the current state of the education system in the United States making it more than another simpleminded comedy.
Scott Voss won the teacher of the year award nearly a decade ago. Since then he has slowly deteriorated into the type of teacher that many a politician, lobbyist, and parent blames for the United States' poorly educated children--he reads the paper at his desk, tells his students the material they are reading is not important, and can't be bothered to even show up on time to class. Scott Voss does care about the kids, and the school, he is simply frustrated with "moving cattle" through the system. Everything has become a "numbers game" in the school system and the power to make a difference by one teacher impossible. But then something happens, and that something is an incredibly topical subject--due to budget constraints the school principal announces that most of the extra-curricular activities will have to cut from the school budget. Football of course is not on the list but it does include the music program, headed up by Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) a nearly tenured teacher who will lose his job at the end of the year unless an influx of $48,000 dollars makes it into the school's budget. Enter Scott Voss, the man least likely to stand up for anything, and his promise to save the music program.
Scott's attempts to raise the money with a second job teaching a U.S. citizenship class will never work in time, but it does introduce him to a former MMA fighter from Holland, Niko (Bas Rutten). Scott manages to convince Niko to train him as an MMA fighter, he was a star wrestler in college twenty years before, and now at the age of 42 he is about to get in the ring as the greatest underdog. Because, in Scott's mind, even if he loses he gets paid, and that is better than nothing. Scott sacrifices his body, endures the pain of being beaten night after night, all in order to raise the money for the school's music program. Music teacher Marty Streb is by his side the entire time, and the viewer roots for Scott even as each fight is more and more absurd. He even makes it to the UFC Championship in Las Vegas where his opponent looks like he could kill a man with one finger. The absurdity gets bigger and bigger as the movie goes on; so does the enthusiasm towards what Scott is doing for the kids' school.
Here Comes The Boom is as uplifting a movie can get as a comedy of preposterous proportions. Kevin James is a likable hero, his love interest Bella Flores (Salma Hayek) a great match for him with her hard-to-get antics, and the sidekicks Niko and Marty are hilarious in their respective parts. It is the hope that Here Comes The Boom emanates that hooks a viewer. It may be trying to get you to laugh but it manages to bring a tear to your eye. The school system in the United States is crumbling, the need dire for resources, and in Here Comes The Boom you see how one person can possibly make a difference. The inspiring story that resides inside Here Comes The Boom makes a great statement, even if it is mingled with watching a man take more than his share of punches and knees to the abdomen than anyone in his physical shape should ever take. You laugh, you get emotional, and most of all you leave knowing that this comedy actually has something more to offer than just laughs.
Kevin James' character Scott is sleeping face down in a pillow on his bed, snoring loudly. His body is contorted, the sheets are a mess, and the reaction from the children in the audience is uproarious laughter. It does not take much from Kevin James to get a laugh, and while the laughs are present in Here Comes The Boom they are not plentiful. majority of the humor takes place in the ring with Scott, the fish-out-of-water scenario of having a brawny older man fight younger and stronger men who are rippling with muscles. His actions are awkward, he can't barely defend himself, and it is the humiliating aspect of his actions that make the viewer laugh. But you are laughing along with him because Scott is aware that he is lacking the skills to be in the ring yet he is willing to undergo the mortifying act to raise money. The laughs are not on Scott, they are just an added bonus of the predicament he has gotten himself into. On occasion though there are scenes that poke additional fun at the farce of him fighting, like when it starts to rain and the ring becomes a large puddle. Scott slips and slides on his larger, more rotund belly, as his trainer Niko and Marty scream at him to use the slipperiness to his advantage.
Outside of the ring the laughs occur sporadically, and without any ebb or flow. Salma Hayek delivers a few chuckles as she avoids Scott's advances, or when she divulges some of her own secret fighting techniques. Niko the trainer looks tough, until he teaches his yoga class or jumps on the spinning bicycle at the gym--then the laughs are on him as the film continually feminizes his character for the benefit of a mild giggle. Henry Winkler's music teacher Marty is sweet-natured and also out of his element by accompanying Scott to the fights. The comments he makes, and the choice of music for Scott's entrance, a Neil Diamond song no less, make for the occasional decent joke but nothing that will have you laughing out loud for more than a second. Here Comes The Boom is a comedy, but it's subdued and more concerned with making a strong point with its heartwarming story than keeping the viewer in belly laughs.