October 10, 2012

Teacher Moonlights as Prizefighter to Save School’s Music Program

BOY AM I EVER OUT OF SHAPE: Scott Voss (Kevin James, facing the camera), a biology teacher, is being coached and trained by a retired kick boxing champion (Mark DellaGrotte, back to the camera). Scott is training to fight in a mixed martial arts prize match in order to win enough money to donate to his school so that his best friend Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) won’t lose his job as music teacher, which the principal wants to cut in order to balance the school’s budget.

Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a bored biology teacher at mythical Wilkinson High in Massachusetts, a cash strapped school suffering from low morale. Scott is part of the problem, because he sets a horrible example for his students, such as stealing candy from vending machines and always arrives late for class.

During recess, the bored 42-year-old bachelor always flirts with the beautiful school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). However, she routinely rebuffs his advances with gentle reminders of how often she’s rejected each of his requests for a date.

The plot thickens when Principal Betcher (Gregg German) assembles the faculty in the auditorium to announce the latest budget cuts. The measures include plans to eliminate after school activities such as the debate club and field trips, and also the entire music program.

That means Scott’s colleague and friend, Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), will be callously laid-off right before earning tenure. And to add insult to injury, the dedicated music teacher’s firing comes at a time when his wife (Nikki Tyler-Flynn) is pregnant.

This dire state of affairs inspires Scott to prevail upon the principal to preserve his pal’s position. But Betcher says the school simply doesn’t have the $48,000 to pay Marty.

Therefore, Scott, who hasn’t wrestled competitively since college, decides to raise the cash by moonlighting in the ring as a mixed martial arts fighter. With the help of Marty and a retired kickboxing champ (Bas Rutten), he proceeds to whip himself, a middle-aged couch potato, into shape.

Here Comes the Boom is a sweet-natured sports story that combines familiar elements from Rocky (1976) and Nacho Libre (2006). Directed by Frank Coraci (The Waterboy), the movie showcases Kevin James’s comic genius at his best, such as pratfalls in a mask while wearing ill-fitting stretchy pants, or futilely wooing the woman of his dreams.

The plot inexorably builds to a showdown between Scott and an intimidating adversary (Krzysztof Soszynski) for a purse that conveniently matches Marty’s salary. Wouldn’t it be nice if Wilkinson’s student body and school band were on hand in the Vegas arena to cheer for their altruistic teacher, and better yet if Bella had a change of heart and also arrived ringside for a kiss at the moment of truth?

Here Comes the Boom is a pat Hollywood tale of redemption where a perennial loser transforms himself into a beloved hero who wins the match, saves his best friend’s job, and gets the girl!

Very Good (***) Rated PG for sports violence, crude humor, and mild epithets. Running time: 105 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.