Here Comes the Boom
Directed by Frank Coraci
Screenplay by Kevin James, Allan Loeb, Rock Reuben
Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler
How long is Here Comes The Boom? 105 minutes.
What is Here Comes The Boom rated? PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language.
Boom is a Dud
Mixed Martial Arts/Ultimate Fighting Championship has certainly hit the big time when it becomes the subject of major motion pictures. Last year, we had Warrior, which starred Tom Hardy and earned Nick Nolte an Academy Award nomination. This year, we have Here Comes The Boom, which stars Kevin James (The Zookeeper, Grown Ups) and is produced by Adam Sandler. This one will probably be ignored come awards time.
Here Comes The Boom is your typical underdog story. Unenthusiastic and perpetually late high school biology teacher Scott Voss (James) learns that the school is about to shut down the music program right as fellow teacher Marty (Henry Winkler, of the ridiculously hilarious Childrens Hospital) learns that he’s about to be a father. The budget-minded Principal Becher (Greg Germann) refuses to listen to the pleas of his faculty foil, so Voss decides to raise the money himself to keep the program alive. The best plan: Voss, a former wrestler for Penn State (the film’s funniest, albeit an unintentional, joke), becomes an MMA fighter with the hopes of making it into UFC and taking a dive.
One of the most important things to remember about Here Comes The Boom is that it’s supposed to be a family film. It’s rated PG; the “humor” more or less is inoffensive (although unfunny); and it’s relatively bloodless until the final fight, which I thought was actually a good decision on director’s Frank Coraci’s (Click, The Waterboy) part. And as a family film, it is fair to forgive it some trespasses, including those related to its lack of jokes or humor in general. But don’t worry, people do get hit in silly fashions.
But that leeway only extends so far, and Here Comes The Boom goes well beyond the breaking point. Although more painfully bland than offensively horrible, this is a movie that feels compelled to throw in every conceivable plot element. Arguably three villains, including a last minute betrayal. A love interest (Salma Hayek) that he lecherously hits on. A teacher rekindling his passion. His one group of friends. His brother who wants to live out his dream and has a screaming horde of children. A failing restaurant. A student who might need to quit the music program despite her love of song. People needing to pass a US Citizenship test… This list is not at all inclusive and is sloppily tossed in with the main plot of Voss training to, and eventually becoming, a real-deal MMA fighter. Bizarrely enough, the human interest element of the “real life” story- that of a teacher facing bodily harm to help his students- is arguably the most interesting aspect of this tale yet is probably given the least attention. Only Joe Rogan (playing himself) seems to recognize the value of this angle.
Needless to say, all of these elements, UFC storyline included, are rushed, and even liberal use of montages can’t save any of them. This leads to all of the elements lacking emotional resonance and the cynical feeling that writers Kevin James, Allan Loeb, and Rock Reuben don’t have much regard for the audience. They know that these elements have worked in previous films of this genre, so they assume that simply throwing them into their movie will inspire the same reaction. This is further evidenced by how blatantly the film spells out just how noble the quest is- after all, Voss isn’t just doing this for himself or even for the school, but for a friend who is about to lose his job and is about to have a baby.
Voss himself is a particularly problematic character. Especially at the beginning, the movie can’t decide whether he’s a loser schlub, an apathetic jerk, or a mixture of both. He gets better at fighting because we see him winning bouts and learning to block shots in montages, but we never get a sense of how fighting changes him physically. Was he grossly out of shape before or was he just a big guy who didn’t get much exercise but was otherwise fit? It doesn’t matter. Even psychological victories, such as when he rekindles his love of teaching or reconnects with his students, seem more demanded by the script than actual character growth.
Part of the problem with Voss has to do with Kevin James being a horrible leading man. Of everyone in Camp Sandler, James is probably the most successful cinematically of all his allies and protégés. Yet I find something cold and unlikeable about him. I haven’t seen his stand up, but in his film and television roles, he comes across as someone who has been told he is funny but completely lacks an understanding of actual comedy. A poseur comic lead. This “quality” of his shines through in Here Comes The Boom, and makes it incredibly hard to want to see Voss succeed even though we know he must because “winning isn’t everything” isn’t part of this movie’s philosophy; you must be bashed in the head with “feel good.”
But like I mentioned above, Here Comes the Boom is a family film, and because of that, I feel that audience reaction should be acknowledged since I am admittedly not its target audience. The age-mixed crowd I saw it with seemed to enjoy it. They laughed at some of the (if I may be honest and pretentious) lowest common denominator moments that didn’t elicit a single reaction in me. It’s a very simple film, a very basic film, and it may very well entertain much less demanding viewers… and I’m not just talking about children. Though to be fair, the fight scenes are better done than I expected.