As Scott Voss (Kevin James) enters the arena for his first fight in mixed martial arts, a screaming audience, a stray chicken or two and the accompanying music of P.O.D.’s “Boom” join him. He enters the fighting cage with swagger and meets the deadpan stare of the unimpressed and overweight fighter before him. The fight begins, he attacks, and within seconds he is knocked unconscious by a swift knee to the face.
Scenes like this are some of the best moments of “Here Comes the Boom.” The humor that comes with something as simple as James’ rowdy jump into the cage, and his immediate anticlimactic defeat, is one of the essential components to the film’s success.
Directed by Frank Coraci, the film surrounds Scott, a high school biology teacher who makes it his mission to save the music program of his school, which faces elimination because of budget cuts. To keep the program afloat, he must raise $48,000 by the end of the school year, and he turns to mixed martial arts as a solution. Equipped with only his college experiences in wrestling, he decides to enter fights to receive cash payments with the help of music teacher Marty (Henry Winkler), former MMA fighter Niko (Bas Rutten) and school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek), who train him for the fights.
The writing has a lighthearted and humorous style, but the comedy is broken up by moments of profound sadness. The sadder moments are few but powerful, such as the moment when the principal proposes to remove the music program and thus Marty’s job.
Winkler plays Marty with conviction and creates the perfect balance between a strong, devoted teacher and a heartbreakingly fragile man. His fumbling protests are painful to watch, and it is a relief when James, who has made a career playing nice, nonthreatening guys who manage to save the day, steps in to help.
The scenes that include Rutten are funny and entertaining because of his charming goofiness. At one point, he sings a powerful ballad and showcases exactly why he became a wrestler instead of a musician. Hayek gives a performance that proves she is not just the love interest but also a character with a charming personality and sass. During Scott’s training, she even leaps onto his back to help prepare him for the element of surprise.
The cast is without flaws, and James stands out as the perfect person for his role. It would take someone with a heart of stone to dislike his endearing and inspiring performance as a stocky biology teacher turned amateur MMA fighter.
Coraci directs a movie that has the inspirational and fighting themes of “Rocky” but with a humorous streak and an added heartwarming vibe. From start to finish, he crafts a film that will reign as the feel-good movie of the year.
Overall rating: 4 stars
Kevin James stars in this delightful comedy.