A dispirited teacher raises money to save a buddy’s job by fighting in MMA competitions in Here Comes the Boom, a movie that makes getting body-slammed look like a viable path for funding arts education.
Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a seriously disengaged high school biology teacher. He is, however, aware enough to appreciate the work done by his buddy Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), the music teacher. Marty is still passionate about teaching, and in the cold, gray world of their crummy school, his classroom is a warm, vibrant example of what’s working. So, naturally, when Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) announces cutbacks, Marty and his school band are one of the things to go. And unemployment would be particularly rough on him just now as, unexpectedly, his wife is expecting.
Scott, worried about his friend and aware that Marty is a resource the kids need, boldly announces his plan to raise the money to save Marty’s job. He announces his plan, but it doesn’t exactly have details. He first tries teaching citizenship classes to raise money but finds that at that rate, he’ll have the money in a few decades. While tutoring one of his students, Niko (Bas Rutten), he happens to see an MMA bout and learns that the fighters make big bucks even if they lose. I can lose, says Scott, a former college wrestler, and so he sets out to fight — literally — to save Marty’s job.
Also in Scott’s corner — figuratively — is school nurse Bella Flores (Salma Hayek). She won’t take him up on his offer to go to dinner with him, but she does support his attempts to save Marty. And she sees how his newfound zeal in the ring is spilling over to a newly rediscovered excitement for his job.
If last year’s teacher-in-the-MMA movie Warrior had a baby with failing-school-saving Won’t Back Down and that baby went to clown school and then spent its afternoons watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you’d have Here Comes the Boom. This movie has some fighting — mostly played for laughs. It has a bit of romance; it has some heart. It is Kevin-James-comedy enough without being unbearably goofy. It is, to the bone, OK. It doesn’t break a sweat trying to do anything innovative with the comedy or the characters, but it doesn’t phone it in either.
Here Comes the Boom was released about a month and a half too early for what it is — the a-little-bit funny, basically inoffensive most-ages-safe comedy that the whole family can go see together over Thanksgiving weekend. If it doesn’t land at the second-run theater in time for the holiday season, you can always put it in your queue for the next time you need to offer a diverse group of people some almost adequate entertainment. C+
Rated PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language. Directed by Frank Coraci and written by Kevin James, Alan Loeb and Rock Reuben, Here Comes the Boom is an hour and 45 minutes long and distributed by Sony Pictures.