“I’m having a crazy month of meeting people”
Let’s face it, I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed a straight Happy Madison production—I exclude Apatow‘s and Binder‘s because they would have probably been made with or without the shingle—since 2004’s 50 First Dates. In all actuality, looking at the list now makes me think it may be the only film I’ve given three stars to at all. And this is coming from a long-time Adam Sandler apologist. I’ve finally decided to wake from the drunken stupor Billy Madison‘s greatness put me under so long ago.
Unsurprisingly, a film without Sandler’s key involvement is the one to break the trend. I’m not saying Here Comes the Boom is a three star film—it isn’t. It is, however, something of an aberration for the studio due to the fact it strives to be more than just another stupid comedy. Star and co-writer Kevin James is pushing a message above the usual morality tale of overcoming odds inherent to these films by including commentary on the public school system’s “cattle pushers” failing the youth of America. It may feel unsubtly tacked on at times, but I applaud the comedian for going beyond a Save the Music spoof by seriously broaching a subject easily ignored in our society currently built on lowest common denominator success.
And I do give full credit to James for this because the whole film is riddled with his buddies on both sides of the camera. Directed by Frank Coraci (Zookeeper) and co-written with Allan Loeb (The Dilemma) and Rock Reuben (“King of Queens”), he’s even enlisted his retired MMA bud Bas Rutten to perform a integral supporting role. James was after all a wrestler in high school—with teammate/friend Mick Foley—who jokes in his stand-up about being a bodybuilder before deciding he enjoyed eating too much. So this film’s world is definitely in his wheelhouse. It also makes him believable in the role despite his character being a 42-year old high school Biology teacher resigned to the fact he can no longer make a difference in his students’ lives.
He’s not the Rocky of MMA or anything; he’s just a feel-good story noticed by Joe Rogan during the course of the film that’s given the chance to raise money for his school. Once Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) callously announces he’s cutting arts classes and teachers, James’ Scott Voss finds his mouth running to vow he and the staff will rally around bandleader Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) and raise forty-eight grand before summer to save his job. Partly because of his vitriol towards the boss who docked him a vacation day for tardiness, partly feeling bad the aging maestro just found out his wife was pregnant, and partly because he’d like to eat jambalaya with school nurse Bella Flores (Salma Hayek)—the film’s innuendo, not mine—Voss unwittingly engages in a life Renaissance of sorts.
The journey James’ character takes is an eccentric one crossing paths with immigrants, MMA athletes, students’ parents, and a ton of punches and kicks to the face. There’s the headshakingly clichéd uniting of troubled people serendipitously needing each other’s expertise to find joy in their lives as well as random oddities coming in and out strictly for comic relief. And while both serve as little more than padding and hamfisted plot progression, the laughs are big and often enough to forgive their inclusion in lieu of heading back into the cage. No matter how entertaining Shelly Desai‘s creepy Miguel or Gary Valentine‘s Eric Voss and his litter of hyper children, Here Comes the Boom ultimately lives or dies as a result of what happens in the octagon with James, Winkler, and Rutten’s Niko.
More than just the fighting, however, this trio bonds during training as well. Winkler’s effeminate, “Fonzie who?” shtick mixed with out-of-touch classical music aficionado is the perfect foil to Rutten’s over-exuberant Dutchman who goes from teaching aerobics to training James to leading a spinning class without breaking a sweat. They are the heart and toughness respectively that Voss needs to get through the pain and understand making a difference isn’t about winning or losing. It’s a sappy lesson that reinvigorates his career and confidence while clumsily helping him get closer to Hayek and somehow causing every single person in close proximity to also find a new lease on life. Wow, who knew the power of positivity could simultaneously be bottled as a health elixir, aphrodisiac, and lucky charm?
Filipino-born YouTube sensation—and “Glee” actress—Charice and kickboxer Mark DellaGrotte round out the cast to assist Voss and Niko in achieving their goals and help James and Rutten shine comically. Kevin is immensely likeable despite being a bit of a dick and his reactionary expressions are gold throughout. The dude has gotten in pretty good shape and really dives into the role so his ability to endear can be matched by the physicality necessary to survive the abuse. But we know James and expect him to go all out for laughs, so it’s Rutten who steals the show with an infectiously affable demeanor juxtaposing against his formidable presence. As much about him validating his own athleticism as James, the fact they do it for children’s education makes the overwrought sentimentality and astronomical success easier to swallow.
 Scott Voss (Kevin James) teaching his biology class in Columbia Pictures’ HERE COMES THE BOOM. PHOTO BY: Tracy Bennett © 2012 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
 Niko (Bas Rutten), Marty (Henry Winkler) and Mark Dellagrotte cheer on Scott Voss (Kevin James) in Columbia Pictures’ HERE COMES THE BOOM. PHOTO BY: Tracy Bennett © 2012 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
 Bella (Salma Hayek) and Scott (Kevin James) in Columbia Pictures’ HERE COMES THE BOOM. PHOTO BY: Tracy Bennett © 2012 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.