"Here Comes the Boom" is a pretty decent inspirational high school teacher movie, but it fails as a sports comedy. It has a likable performance by Kevin James as a biology teacher who helps save his school's music program. In an era when cash-strapped public institutions are being forced to cut back on vital programs like art and music, the movie deserves credit for tackling real-life issues. I just wish those issues had been explored in a worthier comedy.
Named after a hit song by the rock band P.O.D., "Here Comes the Boom" is the latest star vehicle for James, who gained popularity on the sitcom "King of Queens". I enjoyed him in his film debut, playing opposite the ultra-suave Will Smith in "Hitch". Since then, he's appeared almost exclusively in low-brow comedies like "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", "Grown Ups" and "Zookeeper".
Admittedly, I'm not the target audience for these movies; middle schoolers are. That doesn't mean I'm biased. I've enjoyed my share of silly comedies this year, including "The Dictator" and "The Campaign". Those movies were topical, and the actors did a good job of wringing laughs from absurd situations. "Here Comes the Boom" is also timely, but it's marred by plot holes and lazy storytelling.
When we first see him, Mr. Voss (played by James) is an apathetic underachiever who's frequently late for his own class. He tells one of his students that the chances of her using biology in real life are "basically zero." He seems to care so little for his students that later, when he volunteers to save the music program, his change of heart isn't very believable.
The school needs to raise $48,000 to save the program. A former wrestler, Mr. Voss starts training as a mixed martial-arts fighter and soon enters as a competitor in UFC fights to win prize money. The movie makes it look very easy to become a UFC fighter, but no matter. Even if he loses, Mr. Voss stands to win a hefty $10,000 per fight.
"Here Comes the Boom" covers familiar territory, inviting comparisons to superior movies. A subplot involving a Filipina student whose father is making her quit music so she can work extra hours in his restaurant is by far the most affecting thing in the movie. But it pales in comparison to a similar plotline in "Mr. Holland's Opus", the greatest modern inspirational teacher movie, which shows Mr. Holland inspiring a student to keep playing the clarinet. The fight scenes in "Here Comes the Boom" are amateurish, especially if you've seen the expertly staged, emotionally absorbing matchups in last year's epic UFC fight movie, "Warrior".
James remains as charming as ever, but his weight and age work against him in this role. There's something disquieting about seeing a 47-year-old man repeatedly pummeled by guys half his age. He's ably supported by Henry Winkler and Salma Hayek, but the script doesn't do the actors any favors. For Mr. Voss's big final fight in Vegas, the music students all show up with their instruments. It's a sweet scene until you consider how much a trip like that would cost. Isn't raising money the whole point of Mr. Voss competing in the first place? The scene is typical of a movie that means well but never quite becomes a contender.
Page 2 of 2 - "Here Comes the Boom" will be playing this weekend at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State Street. Showtimes are 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. Tickets are $6.
Stephen is an AHS graduate who studied film and journalism in college. His reviews have appeared in The University Daily Kansan and at FilmNet.com. His video pick of the week is "Arthur Christmas", which he thinks will become a holiday classic. He lives in Wichita.