Sony // 2012 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 6th, 2013
One teacher still believes in fighting for his students.
I've never understood the appeal of UFC and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It's basically men stripped to their bare essentials (save for some gloves and a mouth guard) kicking, punching, and beating the ever living snot out of each other, with blood flowing as freely as Merlot at a San Francisco winery. It looks like the most painful sport on the planet. If you've seen various MMA events and thought they could use some laughs, Here Comes the Boom may be right up your alley.
When budget cuts threaten to cancel some of his school's most valued activities, former collegiate wrestler turned high school science teacher, Scott Voss (Kevin James, The King of Queens), finds himself in the ring fighting to save the music program and its devoted (but non-tenured) teacher, Marty (Henry Winkler, Happy Days). Scott's genius plan is to become an MMA fighter so he can earn money by losing fights, with the help of retired MMA fighter, Niko (Bas Rutten, Zookeeper), and in the process hopes to impress the school's head nurse Bella (Salma Hayek, Dogma). In the end, it'll take all of Scott's brawn, brains, and wit to win the hearts of his students and enough money to save his school's most valued assets!
Kevin James has become a significant box office draw and squandered much of his talent on cruddy Adam Sandler-produced movies -- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper. It's as if James is taking a page from Sandler's own career and simply coasting on the fact that someone is allowing him to make movies. When Here Comes the Boom arrived in theaters, I avoided it like the plague, assuming it to be a clichéd dud that featured shallow humor and terrible performances.
Well, I was half right.
Here Comes the Boom is as clichéd as they come, featuring a story cut and pasted directly from the Rocky 101 handbook. How many movies have we seen where a) a likable guy has to b) go against all odds to c) become the best boxer/wrestler/fighter/(insert sport here) so he can d) win the love of a woman, e) help out someone in need, or f) all of the above. I could start counting, but we'd be here until my last dying breath. Simply put, Sandler's longtime director Frank Coraci (The Waterboy) makes this movie so obvious, it boarders on parody.
Where Here Comes the Boom rises above the pack is in its performances. Kevin James is a likable actor who gives Scott Voss a real personality. James (who co-wrote the film) makes Scott a bit of a goof, a bruiser, and a nerd all rolled into one messy everyman package. We root for Scott despite his failings. It's a tricky performance to pull off, but James makes the character someone we want to see win. Even better is Henry Winkler as Marty, the school's resident music teacher. Aged to perfection, having long since shed his iconic Fonz image, Winkler makes Marty a strong yet sympathetic character. So good is Winkler that it made me want to see him in more roles, possibly even dramatic ones. Even the periphery cast is good, including Bas Rutten as Scott's amusing trainer, and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal) as the school's shifty hard nosed principal. The only actor who doesn't make much of an impression is Salma Hayek as Scott's love interest, who almost looks like she wandered in from another movie.
Because the screenplay follows all the beats needed for a story like this -- the requisite training montage, a rise-fall-rise subplot -- there's nothing that shocks or surprises. Even so, Coraci injects the film with a freshness most of these films lack. Maybe it's the fact that Mixed Martial Arts isn't something we've seen a lot of in movies. Kevin James got into shape for his role (sort of) and is believable as he pounds and takes a pounding in the ring. The comedic aspects aren't top notch, relying a bit too heavily on the obvious -- look at the fat man fall down! -- but the characters and performances more than make up for the deficiencies.
Here Comes the Boom is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. I have absolutely not complaints about this transfer -- it's stunning in its clarlity. The colors pop off the screen and the black levels are inky and solid. This is one of Sony's best efforts and it looks sparkling in high def. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. For a movie that is essentially a comedy, this is a very bombastic surround sound experience. Directional effects are plentiful while the dialogue, music, and effects are all easily distinguishable. Overall this is an excellent video and audio presentation. Also included on this disc are Dolby 5.1 mixes in French, Spanish, and Thai, as well as English, French, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), and Thai subtitles.
The supplemental features include approximately sixteen minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, a few fluffy featurettes on the making of the film, including the fighting sequences and MMA ("Here Comes the Cast", "Gino vs. Ritchie", "Back to School", "Learning How to Fight", "Three Amigos", "The Pros", "Disco Street Fighting"), as well as some trailers for other Sony films.
Here Comes the Boom isn't going to go down in cinematic history as a great sports movie, but the film knows how to fuse a respectable if obvious story with a decent script and a cache of actors who give far better performances than expected. In fact, Henry Winkler deserves an Oscar nod for his speech to Scott at the end of the film. Well...maybe not, but it's still pretty good.
Against all odds, this one earns its freedom. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (sDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel