[Review] – Here Comes The Boom

23 Oct

Title: Here Comes the Boom
Year: 2012
Director: Frank Coraci
Writers: Kevin James, Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben
Starring: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler
MPAA Rating: PG, bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language
Runtime: 105 min
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Metacritic: 40

Look, I think Kevin James is a funny guy who’s made to seem funnier by the fact that he’s pretty damn likable, there’s a reason why The King of Queens lasted for nine seasons and over 200 episodes. I just really don’t like the stuff he’s been doing after he made the transition to the big-screen. Sure, the role that got him noticed by the movie guys, as Albert Brennaman opposite Will Smith in Hitch, was actually damn funny, but after that he’s been happy just hanging around the Happy Madison team which mostly means he’s been in some really crappy movies as a result.

The new film he’s in, Here Comes the Boom, is indeed another Happy Madison production, and Mr. James gets the lead role as well as producing and writing credits here. He’s Scott Voss, a guy in his 40’s who looks back on his glory days as a collegiate wrestler to keep himself from being bored to death by his job as a biology professor at a failing high school. Then the school starts making some budget cutbacks and word gets out that the first of those would be the cancellation of the music program, which would mean Marty, the music teacher played by Henry Winkler who Scott loves, would be laid off. That’s when Scott decides he’s got to do something to raise the $48’000 necessary to save the program and his friend’s job.

At first he gets a job teaching a night class and learns that one of his students there used to be a mixed martial arts fighter. And by watching UFC fights Scott gets the idea of getting into MMA himself to raise the money to save the music program. People think he’s crazy at first, including the school nurse played by Salma Hayek here as the love interest who can also take care of him, but, obviously, people will rally behind him and he’ll become a big sensation and the kids will love him and yadda-yadda. You probably know exactly how this will all turn out.

Because, really, the plot here is pretty dumb. There are no surprises and, most surprisingly, the laughs are really few and far between and the film itself, at 105 minutes, is much longer than it ever needed to be. This is the kind of film that wanted to be this light inspirational comedy and that thought it could because it had a lead star that’s terribly charming, but the fact is that there’s no real cohesion to the narrative here and the film does basically nothing to get laughs or amusing moments from the sight of Kevin James as a for-real MMA fighter, which should have been its greatest strength.

That’s what bugged me the most about this film, that it never really took any chances to be funny. It’s like this movie is all one big set-up for jokes but doesn’t mind being only that and leaving the jokes on the table without ever using them to get any kind of pay off from them. The Happy Madison crew, if anything, can’t be faulted for at least always going for the jokes (even though most of the time they don’t land) so it really was surprising to see that Here Comes the Boom turned out to be a film that pretty much forgot to even try.

Kevin James movies, the ones in which he’s the star, kind of go this way, I’m beginning to realize. They’re not so much about the comedy as they are about the unbearable levels of schmaltz, about how it’s all set up to have his character come from being a loser to become a hero with this underdog story that will eventually have every supporting player rooting for him and Salma Hayek giving him a kiss. Here Comes the Boom is basically Paul Blart: Mall Cop except set up in a fighting cage instead of a mall.

I really, really disliked this film. Yes, Mr. James is a likable guy, but the reason why I keep saying that is because that’s the only good thing you can say about the film and it’s not really about the film at all. This just seems like a horrible cash-grab move, like the people responsible for this at the studio said: “Hey lets get Kevin to fight to make kids happy” or something and then left it at that, without much idea development beyond that. All of that shows in this film that doesn’t follow logic in his narrative, that has absolutely no personality or anything resembling decent ambitions.

So really I don’t know what else to say. Kevin James is the guy that made his name on a successful TV show (that got him an Emmy nod) and in supporting roles in decent movies by delivering charming, regular-Joe performances that worked. Yet every time he’s tackled a lead role the result is kind of painful to watch, like he’s more about being likable than actually funny with horribly broad performances that many times play the typical jokes surrounding his weight. He should give Will Smith a call, he actually shined when relegated to being beneath real movie-star charisma.

Grade: C-

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