James Aims for Heart, Hits Funny Bone
“I got beat up really bad in the movie.”
That’s what Kevin James (“Hotel Transylvania”) said about his new movie “Here Comes the Boom” (directed by Frank Coraci) at a press conference last Monday. But that wasn’t enough to save what he had hoped would be a departure from his usual “goofy” persona, as he put it.
Sentimental to be sure, “Here Comes the Boom” is first and foremost a comedy that fails. Its original basic plot (teacher turned UFC fighter) is overshadowed by its generic gags, which aren’t funny and become even less funny when they can be predicted a minute before they unfold.
James wanted to make a movie with more heart, and in that sense he succeeded, but that little bit of redemption isn’t enough to compensate for the movie’s lack of an original story or humor.
In the film, James plays a high school biology teacher, Mr. Voss, who has lost his passion for education and has just been going through the motions ever since he won the best teacher award for his school 10 years ago. He snaps out of his apathy, however, when the school’s music teacher Marty, played by Henry Winkler (“Click”), is in danger of losing his job due to budget cuts.
Mr. Voss is so impressed with Marty’s enthusiasm for teaching and music that he decides to try and raise the money the school needs so that Marty can keep his job and continue to inspire his students.
Mr. Voss discovers how lucrative mixed martial arts can be, learning that even losing a fight could earn him thousands of dollars.
James’ character decides, using his Division I wrestling talents from college, that making it to the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the way to raise the money. All the while, he is trying to win the heart of the school nurse, Bella, played by Salma Hayek (“Savages”).
During the press conference, James said that he wanted to have a “balance” of respect for the sport, heart and comedy when he was writing the script and making the movie, emphasizing that this movie is not “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” In fact, inspired by childhood experience with music and sports, James incorporated his lasting sentiments into the storyline.
“If they cut sports for me and if I didn’t have that outlet to do that,” James began, as he discussed cutting school programs.
“What it would mean to these kids … it’s horrible, and it’s a very difficult thing for them. [Sports] can help them grow in so many different ways that you don’t even see on the surface.”
The first two of James’ three goals, however, fall short, and the third (heart), although somewhat touching, was delivered in about as canned a fashion as Hollywood has to offer — not to mention the utterly unrealistic idea of a middle aged man who hasn’t trained in years competing against the most conditioned and expert martial artists in the world.
One of the few redeeming qualities in the movie was Winkler’s Marty. James was influenced by some of his teachers growing up, and Marty’s character was obviously a product of these teachers and James’ feelings about music.
Winkler is as likeable as can be and breathes life into a character that throws himself completely into inspiring his students and aspiring musicians everywhere, providing the audience with the kind of teacher everyone hopes for on the first day of class.
Another quality of the movie that rises above most of the other scenes is the final fight.
The cameras strapped to the actor’s bodies really put the audience in the middle of the action and helped simulate what it’s like to be in the octagon. These boosts weren’t enough to lift the film up as a whole, though, and it remains easily forgettable.
When asked if he felt more ownership or attachment to this movie because he helped write it, James said he feels a certain responsibility and hopes that it’s well received.
Clearly, he worked hard — physically as well as in terms of making the movie, but there is nothing unique about it, or funny enough, for “Here Comes the Boom” to be very enjoyable.
— By Eric Frank