[Screen It]


(2012) (Kevin James, Salma Hayek) (PG)

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Dramedy: A high school teacher takes up MMA fighting in order to win enough money to save his fellow teacher's job.
Scott Voss (KEVIN JAMES) is a high school biology teacher who isn't motivated to teach his students, including Malia (CHARICE) who's also in the music class taught by Marty Streb (HENRY WINKLER). When not hanging out with his harried chef brother, Eric (GARY VALENTINE), Scott spends his time hitting on school nurse Bella Flores (SALMA HAYEK), while also teaching an adult education class for immigrants like former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Niko (BAS RUTTEN) who wants to pass his citizenship test.

When Principal Betcher (GREG GERMANN) announces that budget cuts will result in Marty losing his job, Scott suddenly finds himself motivated to help. And after hearing that fighters in big MMA bouts can earn $10,000 even if they lose, Scott decides that's the route he'll take to earn the $48,000 it will take to save Marty's job. With Niko's help, Scott then learns what he can about such bouts before starting his professional MMA fighting career.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
As a movie reviewer, my job is to give a critical assessment of new movies. That takes into account all technical and performance aspects of what ends up on the screen, along with how the film personally affected me. That said, I appreciate and accept that other reviewers might react differently, and I certainly get that the average, non-professional moviegoer is often just looking for some sort of escapism from their daily routine and duties.

That said, most reviewers hope that their critiques will guide such viewers toward higher quality offerings and away from those that are lacking in one or more such ways. And the best litmus test of that is seeing whether the cumulative, average critique scores have any effects on the resultant box office take. Granted, people will often go see a summer blockbuster (like "Transformers") regardless of what critics say, or avoid for the most part critical darlings (such as the acclaimed and Oscar winning "The Hurt Locker").

Sometimes, audiences just like a certain performer and will go see whatever they're in regardless of how we critics rate their films. Case in point is Kevin James, the former star of "The King of Queens" who's segued over to a fairly successful movie career. Except for "Hitch" (in which he played second banana to Will Smith) and "Monster House" (where he voiced one of the animated characters), the rest of his films (including but not limited to "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and "Zookeeper") have been given collective thumbs down. Yet, most of them have made decent amounts of money (several over $100 million).

Only time will tell if the trend continues with his latest offering, "Here Comes the Boom," a mediocre effort that -- despite its various flaws -- sort of grew on me a bit as it headed toward its fairly obvious, feel-good ending. In it, James plays a high school biology teacher who was once named teacher of the year, but has since grown into a bored and uninvolved educator. In fact, his only real motivation is continuously hitting on the sexy school nurse (Salma Hayek, game in an underwritten role) who understandably rejects his repeatedly lame come-ons.

He has no problem, however, talking back to the school's principal (Greg Germann) when the latter announces that budget cutbacks will mean the elimination of the music department and thus the job held by the protagonist's friend and fellow teacher (Henry Winkler doing an odd sort of Woody Allen type shtick). Following in the footsteps of Joel Edgerton in last year's criminally under-watched "Warrior," James' character decides that Mixed Martial Arts is the way to make money and save the former Fonz's job. And with the help of a former MMA fighter (Bas Rutten) who's enrolled in an adult education night class to help immigrants pass their citizenship test, our suddenly motivated teacher figuratively and literally hits the ring.

While James doesn't have the comedic skills or timing of other big man comedians like Jackie Gleason, John Belushi, John Candy or Chris Farley, he does have a certain everyman charm to him that's somewhat appealing. Thus, while the actor doesn't do anything brilliant up on the screen, you can't help but somewhat like his character and marginally root for his success. And that's despite getting little help from director Frank Coraci -- working from a script James penned with Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben -- who treats the material as if they were making an uninspired sitcom, with everything presented fairly straight down the middle and with little flair, novelty, or imagination, let alone anything potentially daring.

Even so, and despite everything being bland and predictable, I found myself -- against my better judgment and critical mindset -- somewhat getting wrapped up in the protagonist winning. Yes, it's the standard story of a slacker suddenly having a cause, and works off the old underdog theme, but no, I'm not a fan of MMA fighting (although I really liked "Warrior") and that isn't what hooked me.

Perhaps it was that quality many of the rest of you see in James and the characters he plays. Whatever the case, that late in the film engagement saves the pic from a more critical beat down...but not by much. "Here Comes the Boom" has its moments and something of a third act rally, but not enough to rate higher than a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 4, 2012 / Posted October 12, 2012

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