Published Oct 11, 2012There's something innately genuine about Kevin James that makes him eminently appealing to a cross-section of demographics. Ladies want to squeeze him like a teddy bear, guys could have a beer and maybe some wings with him, and kids look at him as they would their stout goofball uncle. There's a reason Paul Blart: Mall Cop was a surprise hit.
In Here Comes The Boom ― a winning crowd-pleaser that successfully marries the underdog sensibilities of Rocky and School of Rock ― he is Scott Voss, a downtrodden science teacher who has lost the passion he once had in the ten years since he was voted his school's Teacher of the Year. Times are tough and Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) announces he must cut Mr. Streb's (Henry Winkler) beloved music program unless someone can raise nearly $50,000.
After meeting former MMA fighter Niko (surprisingly effective MMA legend Bas Rutten) while working a second job teaching a citizenship course to immigrants, the ill-prepared Scott impulsively decides to step into the ring to raise the cash. Cue the inevitable training and growing pains montages, a requisite love interest, in school nurse Bella (Salma Hayek), and an unlikely all-or-nothing shot at the big time.
The film hews close to a tried-and-true formula, sprinkling in enough laughs and, more importantly, grounding the far-fetched concept with sufficient emotional weight, to keep things from feeling too stale. It certainly wouldn't be accused of anything resembling subtlety by discerning viewers, but with these kinds of stories, it's often better to yank on the heartstrings than tug.
James (who also produced and co-wrote) is smart to surround himself with an able supporting cast, starting with Winkler bringing more of the deadpan, frazzled energy that has been a trademark of his post-Fonz years. As Scott's brother Eric, Gary Valentine shows the polished comic rapport with James that has developed from working together regularly since their days on CBS sitcom King of Queens.
Coraci has been a frequent collaborator with Adam Sandler (having helmed some of his better efforts, in The Wedding Singer and Click) before directing James in Zookeeper just last year. Good comedy directors often go unappreciated, an oversight that seems to afflict the entire genre come awards time, so it's worth mentioning that for the guy who also made The Waterboy, this ranks among some of his best efforts. (Sony)