When I first saw the preview for Here Comes the Boom, the latest Kevin James vehicle, I just kind of rolled my eyes. Kevin James as a MMA fighter? Get real.
I am definitely not a huge Kevin James fan, but that really has more to do with the projects that he has chosen than him as a person. King of Queens may have been a great show, but his co-star Leah Remini is like nails on a chalkboard for me so I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. His movie career hasn’t exactly been in my wheelhouse either; he seems to take the projects that Adam Sandler passes on (which is saying a lot). Those films have their fans (one would assume), but I’m just not one of them. I am, however, a big fan of this stand-up special Sweat the Small Stuff. My favorite bit, which I quote all the time, is on the proper rhythm for giving people a phone number:
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of my day on the phone taking down people’s contact information, I wholeheartedly endorse this bit. There are few things more frustrating than a person who doesn’t the proper phone rhythm. Unfortunately this is pretty much a culmination of the work of his that I like.
So while James seems like a pretty affable guy, he’s usually a red flag for me; when I see his name attached to a project, I know I should walk on by. But the lure of free tickets and the fact that someone was interested in going to the screening with me –which doesn’t always happen – meant that I was willing to roll the dice with Here Comes the Boom. Worst case scenario, I’d hate it and get to rip into in on the blog; it’s actually a lot more fun for me to write about stuff I don’t like than the stuff I do like. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person. At the very least, I’d get to find out what that ridiculous title was all about (the answer wasn’t all that exciting – it’s the P.O.D. song that James’ character uses when he walks into MMA fights. Yawn)
Here Comes the Boom was better than I expected. Don’t let that fool you – instead of a huge steaming pile of poo, it was only a moderate pile.
The foundation of the film is pretty ridiculous from the get go: James plays Scott Voss, a burned out teacher who has kind of checked out of his job. The only reason he seems to show up to work at all is to hit on the school nurse (Salma Hayek). When the principal announces that the school will have to slash their budget and the music teacher Marty (Henry Winkler) will have to lose his job, Scott recaptures some of his passion to help save his friend. He offers to raise the money that would be needed to keep Marty employed. After becoming frustrated at the lack of assistance from his colleagues and the slow progress, Scott decides to become a MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter to earn a few quick paydays by losing matches (because of course he does). Sound logic is not a huge component of this film.
I’ll give some credit to the screenwriters – they didn’t make Scott an automatic success in MMA. They followed the path that a newcomer would take; Scott started in some sketchy local fights and had to work his way up a bigger payday. They do show him struggle a bit, but unsurprisingly his rise is still pretty meteoric by anyone’s standards.
I don’t think that there is much of anything that is a surprise in Here Comes the Boom; there is no doubt where this movie is going to end up and what the end result is going to be. It’s all telegraphed from the very beginning. Even the jokes are predictable and aren’t generally well crafted. You see the set-up and punch line coming from a mile away. It’s all very lazy.
This is not to say that there aren’t occasional laughs in the film. I actually did chuckle a few times in spite of myself and I attribute that to the cast making more of the material than they should have. Plus seeing people fall down is pretty funny. James and Winkler are their usual likable selves. Hayek continues to be beautiful. A few people actually affiliated with the MMA make an appearance, which leads some small credibility to the silliness on the screen. But if you’ve seen the trailer (below), you’ve seen most of the funny stuff.
I’d write off Here Comes the Boom as a comedy that is just not my style, but I think that there are some larger issues at work here other than my personal preferences. This is a film that has something of an identity crisis. It just isn’t sure what type of film it wants to be. It is part comedy, part inspirational, part sports movie and part drama (light drama, but still drama). The whole thing is kind of schizophrenic. People who love MMA will not think that the movie is brutal enough and people who don’t like the MMA will be horrified by the violence. The film kind of takes a middle of the road approach to everything and in the end it just feels very fragmented. I’m not sure who the intended target audience of the movie is. In this case, the whole is lesser than the sum of the parts.
Some other thoughts:
- My inherent goodwill toward Winkler definitely made this movie more tolerable for me. I grew up watching Happy Days re-runs and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in something where I didn’t like him or, in the few cases where he was a bad guy, like his performance. He’s great on Childrens’ Hospital on the Cartoon Network and is so funny on Arrested Development. I don’t know if he picks these roles because of his sense of humor, but I hope so. Long live the Fonz.
- A Neil Diamond song features prominently, which also elevates this film in my estimation. Neil Diamond is the best.
- Even though I totally knew it was coming, my heart did swell a little bit during Scott’s entrance into the big fight. See – I’m not made of stone.
- Good rule of thumb – when there are as many free screenings as there were for this film, that’s probably a good sign that it is a stinker.
- I kept waiting for there to be some sort of punch line for the reason that it was a particularly bad time for Marty to lose his job, but it never came. On its own, seemed like a weird plot point to use.
- I obviously haven’t seen his entire filmography, but Greg Germann seems to have made a career out of playing jerks. I wonder what that does to your psyche if that is how you are typecast.
- I saw this so long ago that I don’t definitively remember if there was an annoying baby or any weirdos in the crowd. I’m guessing no on both counts, since that stuff tends to stick in my head. But I know many of you love when I comment on the other moviegoers, so sorry – I got nothing.
- I’m not personally a huge MMA fan, but I have watched some of the events. I’m still kind of learning how it all works- I’ve been lucky to watch with patient people who don’t mind if I ask questions – but I’m not sure if it is for me or not. I don’t mind violence for violence’s sake when it is in the movies, but in real life it’s kind of hard to watch two men beat each other up. I have the same issue with boxing. So I’m on the fence with both. I have no problem that it exists – I think the ban in NYS is ludicrous – but it just might not be my cup of tea.
- Apropos of nothing: As a baseball fan, I have to respect that in real life James (a Mets fan) named his first born daughter Shea. That’s commitment (though after last night’s Yankees game, I am considering naming my first born Raul).
- If you want to watch a much better film that deals with MMA, I would strongly suggest that you go check out Warrior, which Here Comes the Boom kind of ripped off. I was completely captivated by Warrior and you get to watch Tom Hardy be terrifying without the silly Bane voice from The Dark Knight Rises.
Here Comes the Boom is not worth your hard earned cash; don’t bother with it in the cinema. I wouldn’t even bother with it at Red Box. If it comes on cable, you could have it on in the background while you are doing other things. It’s is not offensively bad, just too much of mishmash tonally and doesn’t put in much effort. It’s a complete trifle, but not even a very entertaining or innovative one. Take thirty seconds to image what you think this movie is and I guarantee that you either nailed the entire premise or came up with something even better. You can find more worthy uses of your time.
Here Comes the Boom opens nationwide tomorrow.