Movie Review: ‘Here Comes the Boom’ is a Winning Cliche
Sometimes it helps to be unoriginal.
Here Comes the Boom from director Frank Coraci and co-writer/star Kevin James explodes into theaters everywhere on Friday with a blend of action, sports, comedy and inspiration that can only come from the story of a teacher helping his kids. Yes, it’s a trope that’s been trod dozens of times, but just because we’ve seen it before, doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing again.
Scott Voss (James) is a high school biology teacher who’s all but checked out on his job. He’s repeatedly late for work and his class consists of his reading the newspaper while his students read their textbooks. This despite his formerly being a teacher of the year, something he reminds his principal (Greg Germann) of as he’s being repeatedly reprimanded.
Voss’ attitude begins to change when he discovers his school is in a budget crisis that will necessitate the cutting of many programs. Of greatest concern to Voss is his friend Marty’s (Henry Winkler) losing his job as the music program faces the chopping block.
In an attempt to raise money, Scott begins teaching a citizenship class where Nico, one of his students and a former MMA fighter (Bas Rutten), clues him in to the big money available just for losing an MMA fight. Citing his ability as a college wrestler and an ability to lose, Voss embarks on an MMA odyssey in an attempt to pay for his school’s budget shortfall.
In a kind of combination of Mr. Holland’s Opus and Rocky, Here Comes the Boom mixes the inspirational teacher and underdog sports drama subgenres with a heavy dash of comedy to round out the recipe. Surprisingly, it all comes together in a pretty refreshing cocktail that works the whole way throughout.
The film is incredibly efficient with its story of Voss’ rise through the MMA ranks. It hits all the normal points you’d expect with such a story, but the ease at which it does this and the briskness of its pace makes the clichés a pleasure to follow.
From the training sequences to the rough first bouts to the initial triumphs, this film hits all the normal notes but does them in a way that seems both familiar and new. A lot of that has to do with the comedic approach it takes to this type of storytelling and the comedic verve James brings to his role as Voss.
Voss is a bit of a buffoon but not in a way that he becomes clownish. Yes, there’s the physical comedy you’d come to expect from Kevin James attempting MMA, but it’s presented in an earnest and respectful enough way that it doesn’t become outlandish and, instead, helps to actually ground the film in some relatability and likability and make it a more pleasant ride through the typical plot points.
Where the film begins to fail is its divergent subplot. Most distracting is a bizarre romance that develops between Voss and Bella, the school nurse (Salma Hayek) that’s essentially based in rejection. It doesn’t makes sense for much of the movie and seems to only exist to be paid off in a cliché at the end.
This isn’t a movie that really needed that aspect. It’s fine to exist in the sports movie and inspirational teacher idiom. It doesn’t need to shoehorn that romance in for extra impact. It does enough on its own.
Here Comes The Boom doesn’t try to do anything different and it succeeds in its familiarity. The way in which it presents its characters and the humor with which it tells a story we’ve seen dozens of times, allows it to feel fresh and the way in which it’s safe with its choices allows a sense of lived-in security that helps the film work that much more.
And what’s wrong with something we know works?