Review: Here Comes the Boom

PLOT: A bored high school biology teacher (Kevin James) takes up MMA to raise money in order to save the job of his school’s beloved music teacher (Henry Winkler). Initially an underdog, he soon finds his footing, and not only gains a shot at the UFC, but also inspires his apathetic students.

REVIEW: You can forgive me for not being especially excited to see HERE COMES THE BOOM. To put it mildly, Kevin James’ filmography does not inspire, with PAUL BLART: MALL COP and ZOOKEEPER being among the very worst Hollywood has had to offer in the last few years. But, whether it’s his own love of MMA (James has reportedly dabbled in it for years) or a new found confidence as a leading man/producer, HERE COMES THE BOOM ain’t half bad. In fact, I’d wager it’s easily the best thing Adam Sandler’s production shingle, Happy Madison has produced in at least a decade.

Working from his own script (co-written with THE DILEMMA scribe Allan Loeb), it’s obvious early on that James is trying to inject a little coolness into his image. It opens up with him tearing around the city on a motorcycle, and then mouthing-off to his jerk principal (who, perhaps unfairly, are portrayed like circa-1980’s style police captains nowadays). Noticeably slimmed down since the last time we saw him, James still makes time for a pratfall or two (hundred), but he’s much less the schlub here than usual.

James is inspired to step in the ring once the school’s nice-guy music teacher, played by Henry Winkler (The Fonz!) is threatened with losing his job and tenure- despite being newly saddled with a much-younger, and pregnant wife. James, who moonlights as a citizenship teacher, gets the idea from his ex-UFC fighter student, Nico (real-life UFC champ Bas Rutten) to give MMA a go, thinking he’ll take a few dives, raise some cash and move on.

In true Hollywood style, James- who starts off as a goofy fighter that looks like he’d have a hard-time staying alive in the cage, emerges as a surprisingly talented fighter. To his credit, James- who’s seemingly turned a lot of his girth into muscle, really does look like he can mix it up in the ring, and his physicality, especially taking into account his size, is very impressive. He moves well, throws himself through the air with aplomb, and seems to have done most of his own fighting-eschewing stuntmen and CGI. Especially in the final bout, I was surprised at how well the fights were shot by director Frank Coraci ( a Happy Madison regular- who actually has a little action experience having directed Jackie Chan’s AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS flop). I actually saw an upcoming big-budget action movie (that I’m not allowed to review yet) that had fight scenes that weren’t nearly as good as this.

Of course, HERE COMES THE BOOM is a comedy first, and a ROCKY/WARRIOR-style flick second, and perhaps that’s the problem. BOOM works a whole lot better when aiming at the heart than at the funny bone, and I can’t say that any of the jokes were particularly funny, although for an ex-fighter, Rutten seems game to poke fun at himself. Perhaps James and Loeb realized this, as the focus suddenly shifts in the final act, which is when, for me anyways, the film really started to work as more than just a diverting ninety minutes.

Continuing the new, “suddenly cool” vibe, James also gives himself quite the on-screen love interest, with him finding time to woo the school’s incredibly hot nurse, played by Salma Hayek, who as always never looks anything less than perfect. Considering that she’s one of the hottest women on the planet, one might assume she’d be a bit hard to swallow as James’ love interest, but she’s always had a non-pretentious earthiness which makes it OK. At least she doesn’t immediately fall for him, although there’s little doubt the film will end in an on-screen clinch.

So- while HERE COMES THE BOOM didn’t really work for me as a comedy, there’s enough of a feel-good underdog story at it’s core to give the film a lot of heart. It really may surprise a lot of folks who might be expecting another run-of-the-mill James vehicle. While I still don’t really find James particularly funny, HERE COMES THE BOOM reveals there’s more to him than you’d think given his track record.

Review: Here Comes the Boom




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.