Kevin James is known for playing lovable buffoons, but he shapes up (literally and figuratively) to take on a meatier role requiring less joviality and more focus in Here Comes the Boom. He plays Scott Voss, a one-time Teacher of the Year who has inexplicably fallen into a slump, coming in late for class and phoning it in with his students. He is ignited into action when his school loses funding and may have to cut extracurriculars. Scott takes on teaching classes at night, but when his measly paycheck doesn't look like it'll make a dent in the school's deficit, the former college wrestler elects to raise the money by training to be a mixed-martial arts fighter. It's a pretty implausible story, but despite its tepid first half, I was surprised to find myself rooting for Scott by the movie's close. Before you head to the theater this weekend, check out my reasons why this might be the film for you — and why you might want to avoid it.
Why you might like it:
- It's Kevin James like you've never seen him before. This is the first time I've seen James play a character that's less than affable. He's cocky yet lazy and he's largely unlikeable for much of the film, and playing against type makes James interesting to watch. It's not just his character that's a departure either; his physical transformation into a legitimately believable fighter is pretty incredible as well.
- The fight scenes are intense and well shot. Scott starts out as a small-time fighter in back-alley matches, but eventually works his way up to a professional-level fight in Vegas. This last fight (in which James fights a real-life MMA fighter) comes off as realistic, and that authenticity keeps the audience on their toes.
- Henry Winkler is delightful. I'll say it: Henry Winkler is the coolest. Here he's playing Marty, the inspiring band teacher whose job is on the line with the threat of budget cuts. He's quirky but not over the top as he tags along with Scott to his training. His character adds a lot of heart to the film.
To see the reasons why Here Comes the Boom may not be for you, just
Why you might not like it:
- The film's emotional plot points come off as highly manufactured. I like an inspirational teacher story as much as the next person, but it has to feel organic. Too many of the film's elements feel contrived, like the the brilliant student whose father wants her give up her passion for music and work in his restaurant. Though the story tugs on the heartstrings, it relies on emotional manipulation.
- The romantic subplot is lacking. Aside from the fact that it's hard to swallow the idea of Salma Hayek going for Kevin James, the romance between their characters is unnecessary. She plays the school nurse who Scott repeatedly asks out — to an extent that's bordering on sexual harassment — and eventually she falls under his charms as he becomes the school hero. The story line comes off as tacked-on, and doesn't add anything to the film as a whole.
- The characters are pretty one-note. All we know about Scott is that he used to be a great teacher and 10 years later, he's not. There's no explanation for what happened between then and now, no reason given for why he lost his spark. Similarly, all we know about his love interest is that she's hot. The principal is a bad guy who has to enforce the budget. The lack of character detail across the board makes these people hard to relate to.