By Roger Moore
Kid-friendly funnyman Kevin James is at his cuddliest in “Here Comes the Boom.” And he has to be. This amusing but sometimes unsettling comedy marries the teacher-turns-to-mixed martial arts mayhem of “Warrior” to that wholesome family dramedy “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
It works, after a fashion. But that doesn’t mean you won’t wince.
James plays Scott Voss, a Boston high school biology teacher who is a decade past his “Teacher of the Year” days. He’s a burnout, habitually late for class, not shy about telling even that rare eager student (Filipino singer-actress Charice) that what he’s teaching and what they’re learning “just doesn’t matter.”
But he’s touched by seeing that rare colleague who is still inspired and inspiring. And when put-upon Mr. Streb (Henry Winkler) and his music program are the first things on the chopping block when Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) has to slash the budget, Scott is moved to act. He’ll raise the $48,000 needed to save his friend’s job and his orchestra.
Bake sales won’t be enough, as the fetching school nurse (Salma Hayek) discovers. And part-time work teaching citizenship classes to immigrants won’t raise much cash, either. But that collision with a collection of semi-stereotypes is where Scott meets the gregarious Niko, played with an amateurish verve by martial artist Bas Rutten.
Scott convinces this Dutch brawler to train him so that he can get into the ring take a beating, and get paid for it.
Which is what he does, running afoul of school policy and impressing the nurse.
James is in fighting trim here, the latest in a line of overweight yet graceful funnymen. He’s developed a comfortable screen presence that takes away the impression that he was working too hard for laughs.
And James, Winkler, Hayek and Rutten make an amusing ensemble and click together. But here’s something the movie botches. There’s too much inside stuff regarding MMA. Faces show up, and the entire audience is supposed to know who these guys are.
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