Onscreen, Kevin James is a likeable guy.
He just needs to pick projects that release his inner Doug Heffernan—that Everyman package delivery driver from “The King of Queens” who knew his limitations, but was confident enough to enjoy life and joke about it at the same time. Heffernan understood his place in the universe and seemed content enough with his lot. Yet, as James played him for nine seasons, you also got the feeling that he would try his darnedest to rise to the occasion if something more was demanded of him.
Heffernan was at the heart of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009), an engaging-if-predictable romp that put James in the center of a story that answered the question, “What would it be like to replace Bruce Willis with a Barney Fife character in a smaller-scale version of “Die Hard”?
Then James starred in three stinkers: “Grown Ups” (2010), “The Dilemma” (2011), and “Zookeeper” (2011)—the latter a wrong turn onto Eddie Murphy Lane.
James gets back on track with “Here Comes the Boom,” a lightweight comedy that’s predictable but still fun to watch, partly because there are enough funny lines to actually make you laugh, and partly because of James’ likeable character in the Heffernan mold.
This time he plays a high school teacher who comes late to class, then sits in his teacher’s desk reading the sports section, rather than teaching biology. Open the book, Scott Voss (James) “instructs” his students. Read. And when the bell rings, Get out of here.
“I’m a Teacher of the Year,” tells his principal (Greg Germann, “House of Lies,” “Ally McBeal”), who’s looking to punish his tenured “dead wood” any legal way he can. “That was 10 years ago!” the principal retorts.
So you have a complacent, uninspired and uninspiring teacher who admires the school’s older music instructor, Marty (Henry Winkler), for still managing to hang onto his passion . . . both for his subject matter, and for teaching. The occasion Scott rises to is the announcement that the music program is going to be cut because of the school’s budget problems. The timing couldn’t be worse, because Marty just learned his much-younger 48-year-old wife is pregnant. So after a public declaration in support of his friend that seems as much a volley fired at his administrative nemesis, Scott finds himself in the position of raising the money to keep the program alive and save his friend’s job.
“Here Comes the Boom” offers a standard plot weave with this main plot interconnecting with slight subplots about adult citizenship students Scott’s teaching on the side, an Asian student who’s being asked to quit music because her father needs her at his restaurant, a brother (Gary Valentine) who hates his life as a painter, a former mixed martial arts fighter (Bas Rutten) who trades citizenship tutoring for fight training, and a school nurse (Salma Hayek) who’s been rejecting Marty so long that it takes them both by surprise when her interest changes after he becomes an energized, dynamic person again. And how does he do this? This middle-aged, overweight former wrestler starts fighting in the “cage” to earn the $48,000 needed to save the music program. And that involves facing some pretty scary guys.
Don’t look for character development other than the wake-up call Marty receives that gets him back in the game, and don’t look for any surprises. “Here Comes the Boom” is what it is: an unapologetic feel-good film that follows the formula. But it’s a good formula action-comedy, because James and co-writers Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben throw in plenty of funny moments—both verbal and physical gags—and there are enough funny characters and situations to make for a surprisingly entertaining night at the movies. Example? When Marty gets a text message from his wife and, ashen-faced, says to Scott, “You know the body. What are the chances of a 48-year-old woman getting pregnant?” Comic pause, then Scott’s reply: “That depends on what she looks like.”
“Here Comes the Boom” is a stronger film than “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” because it follows the “Rocky” formula as well—the underdog who gets his day, the nobody who trains hard and somehow gets a big fight.
“Here Comes the Boom” is rated PG for “some sports violence and some rude humor and language.” But parents of small children be warned that there’s actually a lot of blood and violence in the ring.
For standard definition, the picture quality on this DVD is quite good. The level of detail doesn’t approach what you get on a Blu-ray, but the edges aren’t as indistinct as they are on many DVDs, and the colors seem rich. Some detail gets lost in shadows, but that would be my only complaint for a standard-def release. “Here Comes the Boom” is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Sony must anticipate a wide audience for a mixed martial arts comedy, because there’s a ton of subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese, Traditional Mandarin, and Thai. The featured audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1, with additional options in French, Spanish, or Thai Dolby Digital 5.1. There’s actually a good amount of rear-speaker involvement, and the dialogue and effects are nicely prioritized so the loud scenes aren’t SO much louder than the speech.
Eighteen deleted scenes include an original ending played more for comic effect. Other than that, there’s an under three-minute blooper reel that’s really not all that funny (but at least stays PG by beeping out foul language with an airhorn), and a six-minute cast and crew interview montage that’s intercut with behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the show and obviously intended as a pre-release promo.
“Here Comes the Boom” is a high concept film. As Shawn Edwards of FOX-TV noted, “It’s ‘School of Rock’ meets ‘Rocky.’” It’s a lightweight action-comedy that only tries to entertain, but at least it meets that modest goal. And it knocks out lighter weight comedies like “The School of Rock.” If you walk away feeling inspired to give things your all, so much the better.