The likable family comedy trods a familiar, predictable path, but it remains consistently amusing thanks to the contributions of co-writer/star Kevin James, an actor who is effortlessly charming even if his movies (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Zookeeper”) rarely are. In “Here Comes the Boom,” James has written himself a role that allows him to get all “Rocky” on his “Paul Blart”-style humor-loving audience, and the result is a movie much funnier and heartfelt than you’d expect.
James plays a biology teacher who ambles through life, reading the paper instead of teaching his students and hitting on the school nurse who looks nothing like any school nurse I’ve ever encountered (the fact that the nurse is played by Salma Hayek may have something to do with it). When the school faces a budget crisis that threatens the fledgling music program, James decides to raise the money by taking up mixed martial arts.
The movie gets a lot of comic mileage out of seeing James become a human punching bag, tossing the poor guy all over the place in ways that would kill most men. There’s also some goofily amusing dialogue, like when James tells a colleague, “I took judo in high school. It was only for three and a half weeks because my sensei got accepted into dental school, but he said I had wicked potential.” But it is marred by a typically lousy performance by Greg Germann as the token wrench in the movie’s gears. Can’t this guy — just once — take a role that doesn’t make him look like a total d-bag?
Luckily, the movie redeems itself with a crowd-pleasing finale, be it believable or not, and with a supporting cast that includes a low-key Henry Winkler, Hayek and a hilariously teddy bearish performance by MMA personality Bas Rutten, who is every bit as hilarious as James. Together, the two of them elevate “Here Comes the Boom” from a prototypical injury-based comedy to something much more satisfying and substantial.
Rated PG for comic violence and mild language. 105 minutes.
Director: Frank Coraci. Starring: Kevin James, Bas Rutten.
★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Read more of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at thesuperawesomemovieblog.com.