By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Here comes the review of Here Comes the Boom, a mainstream comedy about mixed martial arts that’s a mixed bag but a tasty mixture.
Kevin James, wearing three hats and tights, gets the lion’s share of the credit for this PG-rated, family-friendly frolic.
James stars as Scott Voss, a disillusioned biology teacher in Boston who discovers that his cash-strapped employer, Wilkinson High School, like many of its students, is failing and, desperate for budget cuts, is about to curtail many of the school’s extracurricular activities.
This includes jettisoning the entire music program, thus putting soft-spoken, dedicated music teacher Henry Winkler out of work at a crucial time in his academic career and family life.
So Scott, who is moonlighting at the local community college teaching an American citizenship class to immigrants for next to no money, decides to raise the necessary funding himself the only way he can think of: by training for and entering mixed martial arts competitions, where he’ll be paid a decent wage even if he loses, which he certainly expects to.
After all, he was on the wrestling team back in college, so why shouldn’t he be able to cut it in MMA?
And if this new pursuit helps him finally get a date with school nurse Salma Hayek, all the better.
Husky James, seen to comic advantage in such films as Hitch and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, dropped 80 pounds for this role and looks buff and remarkably authentic in the ring – even if it is as an everyman out of his undercard depth.
But his likable screen presence and penchant for physical comedy go a long way — and this is also a movie that cares about its secondary characters, allowing many of them to come to life, at least momentarily, rather than treating them as mere extras.
Director Frank Coraci (Zookeeper, Click, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer), who has collaborated before with James and with executive producer Adam Sandler, works from a screenplay that Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben co-wrote with James, who also- co-produced, that keeps the chuckles in generous supply until the traditional inspirational-sports-flick finale, with its much-too-pat root-for-the-underdog climax.
But along the audience-friendly way, Coraci not only smartly and convincingly stages the matches, but gets his fair share of big laughs, many of them via thoughtfully choreographed and strategically shot slapstick bits.
So we’ll wrestle2½ stars out of 4 for an easy-to-take punch-hard-and-feel-good comedy. Here Comes the Boom battles its merry way to a boomlet of laughs.