Once upon a time, Scott Voss (Kevin James) was a great teacher. He cared, he tried, he educated and entertained his students, but eventually, if you teach in the public schools long enough, you can find yourself discouraged, depressed, and purposeless. That’s where Voss is now: reading the paper during classes, showing up late, and generally slacking off.
However, when the music department is threatened and Voss’s good friend Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) is staring down unemployment, Scott has a brilliant idea: mixed martial arts. He is inspired by watching a fighter take a one-minute beating and earning a quick $10,000. Easy money, right? Voss is a former wrestler and athlete, albeit one well past his prime, and how hard can it be to learn how to punch in addition to ground skills? One of the students at his second job is Nico (Bas Rutten), who is a former fighter and trainer, agrees to take his friend and train him to fight. It’s a hare-brained scheme, but with a little hard work…
Cue the montages. Voss fights, gets beaten up. Voss fights and wins. The entire time, Voss trains and fights, and in the process he revitalizes both himself and his school. The students get inspired, the sexy school nurse Bella Flores (Salma Hayek) returns his affection, and Scott’s journey inspires everyone around him. But, can he raise enough money to save the music program?
Kevin James, when you put him in the lazy schlub sort of role, is a good enough leading man to star in a movie. He seems to have gotten himself in pretty good shape for Here Comes The Boom, given his arms, and apparently he did some training for the movie with co-star Bas Rutten. He’s still doughy around the middle, but plenty of real MMA fighters have been fat and still successful (Fedor, Roy Nelson). He’s a decent straight man, but the real surprise is Bas Rutten as Nico. You wouldn’t think a real-life MMA fighter and legitimate tough guy could also be funny, but Rutten makes up for his lack of acting experience with a willingness to make a complete fool out of himself, especially in his scenes as a leader of gym classes. Also willing to poke fun at himself is Henry Winkler, who plays essentially a version of himself, but turned up to 11.
Surprisingly, director Frank Coraci is able to handle the action scenes really well. He manages to keep the MMA shooting both accurate when it comes to the UFC appearances, and interesting, as in a particularly fun shot from the perspective of Scott Voss as he gets dumped end-over-end via suplex. The pacing is good, and the fights themselves are very well choreographed. There are some nice match cuts between Voss and his opponents. It’s clever, but doesn’t stretch too far to detract from the centerpiece, which is the MMA fighting.
The script, from James, Rock Reuben, and Allan Loeb, strikes a good balance between comedy, the inspiring teacher stuff, and the MMA training sequences. That’s a tough act to pull off, and surprisingly, the movie does it. The teacher act is kind of cheesy to me, and there’s nothing terribly original about the story, but it’s done well enough and it keeps things funnier than most of these movies do. It follows the formula, but it’s entertaining enough in the process.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan enjoys comedy and he enjoys MMA, but watching Kevin James get punched in the face for 90 minutes was probably the most fun of all. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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