A pop culture addict who loves to talk about movies, music, books, comics, and all of the other things that move and entertain us.
I really expected to hate Here Comes the Boom, and with good reason. First of all, I am just not a big fan of Kevin James. I thought his sitcom King of Queens was meh, even for a sitcom. His Mall Cop movie was awful, in my opinion. I didn't have any reason to suspect that I would like him in this movie. Secondly, the movie was produced by Happy Madison Productions, who have been very hit and miss and lately, it's been more and more misses. So I really didn't think I would like this movie at all.
Many of the things I expected from this movie, in a bad way, were there too. It was predictable. The characters were not fully drawn out, but not solid enough to work as archetypes either. The Happy Madison style twists were there and visible from a hundred miles away (think of Kevin Jame's brother in the movie who loves to cook, and the father of one of his students who wants the girl to drop out of band to help save his failing restaurant, which seems like an unfair amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl. You can probably see the "ingenious" solution devised to fix everyone's problems with one stroke). Many of the jokes just died on delivery and flat out didn't work. Surprisingly though, I still ended up really liking this movie.
Why is it that I would like this movie despite all the issues I listed? Well, it has a couple of things going for it. One, it has Henry Winkler and Salma Hayek being as charming as they are both capable of being. That's a charm offensive that could win over North Korea, much less a middle-aged movie fan like me. Secondly, it is an underdog sports movie in the mold of Rocky. Now I have to admit that I am a total sucker for Rocky, and sports movies in general. Everything from The Karate Kid to Remember the Titans to Teen Wolf (hey, there's a basketball subplot, it totally counts) I am totally down for.
The sport in this particular movie is MMA fighting. James plays a teacher who is burn out on his job and goes through the motions. He is smitten with co-worker Salma Hayek, who continuously shoots him down. Winkler plays the music teacher, who puts everything he has into reaching his students, and is a role model for the other teachers as well. Unfortunately, the school has decided they have to make budget cuts, and they plan to cut the music program. This is more than James can stomach, and he finds that he really does still care.
Cheap Entertainment... But Entertainment Nonetheless
So Kevin James decides to save the music program by raising the money himself. He starts out by taking a job teaching a citizenship class. One of his students is an ex-MMA fighter, who tells James that the loser in a fight can win $10,000. James asks the man to teach him how to defend himself so he won't get hurt. He starts out in small, unsanctioned fights. He soon decides that he would make more money if he could actually win some fights, and gets another coach to help him on his offense. During all this, he also rediscovers his passion for teaching and becomes a role model for the kids. Thanks to YouTube he gets more and more fame, and eventually, he gets tapped to fight in the UFC, replacing another fighter who injured himself while training. James finds out that a corrupt administrator has embezzled all the money he has made so far, and the only way for him to save the music program now is to win the fight.
The end of the movie plays out exactly like you think it will, which is one thing I would have changed about it. Even with his training, and learning to believe in himself, it is unrealistic that Kevin James could beat a professional UFC fighter. Also, the theme of the movie is that a man being an example and role model is the most important thing he can be or do. Given this, they should have gone full Rocky and had James lose the fight. Then, since we are lifting from better movies already anyway, take a page from It's A Wonderful Life. Have people who were inspired by James's character donate the money to save the music department. It's an ending that is both more believable and is truer to the message of the movie. But they decided to stick with shorter and simpler. Even though the movie has issues, it's watchable. Even if you don't have my weakness for sports movies, I don't see how anyone can fail to be entertained during the moments that Henry Winkler is on the screen. It won't be the best movie you watch in any given time span, but it will entertain you. And that is, at the end of the day, what movies are supposed to do.