New Comedy Sadly Lacking In Humor

If you’ve glanced at the list of films currently playing in the area, I’m certain you’ve realized that, with the exception of the brilliant “Argo” and possibly “Flight” (I haven’t seen it yet.), the choices are sadly unappealing. I loathe found-footage films (“Sinister”) almost as much as I do films dealing with paranormal activity, and I’m not big on animation. Thus because “Flight” (Read about it here next week.) didn’t fit into my schedule, I had to opt for “Here Comes the Boom,” an uninspired comedy that’s virtually devoid of any memorable humor.

Kevin James stars as Scott Voss, a 42-year-old biology teacher who has lost his inspiration for teaching at Wilkinson High School, which is in dire financial straits. Kevin is consistently late for work, and when he arrives at school, he reads the newspaper while his students amuse themselves in his classroom.

In sharp contrast to Kevin is the music teacher, Marty Trieb (Henry Winkler), who is completely in love with his subject and totally devoted to his students. Marty is the happiest when he’s conducting the outstanding student orchestra in his classroom, and Kevin often stops by to watch Marty and enjoy the music.

One day at a faculty and staff meeting, the school principal (Greg Germann) announces the necessity for severe cutbacks in an attempt to keep the school running. Among things that must go are all the extra curricular activities and the music program. Of course this turn of events devastates Marty, and when Kevin questions this decision, he initiates a heated discussion with the principal, who says keeping the music program will cost $48,000.

At his point Kevin goes out on a limb and says that he and his fellow teachers will raise the money. But at the ensuing organizational meeting to discuss fund-raising options, the only people who show up are Kevin, Marty, and Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), the school nurse who spends her days ministering to ill students and refusing to go out with Kevin. When Kevin sees how little support he has in trying to save the music program, he realizes that he’s in big trouble. But help comes from an unexpected place.

It just so happens that Kevin teaches a citizenship class at night, and one of his students is a fellow named Niko (Bas Rutten), who approaches Kevin for some extra help with the course. Kevin agrees and goes to Niko’s house to tutor him, but when he arrives there, he learns that Niko is a retired mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. While he’s at Niko’s apartment, Kevin watches an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout on television, and he’s stunned when Niko tells him that the loser earns $10,000. Thus, Kevin decides all he has to do is join the UFC, lose five fights, and save Marty’s job.

Niko finally reluctantly agrees to train Kevin, who was a wrestler in college, and the film turns into cheesy variation of “Rocky” against the backdrop of a high school. And that’s appropriate because I doubt that many moviegoers older than 15 will find much to enjoy in this shallow film.

The main fault with the movie is that it fails the primary test of a successful comedy because it just isn’t very funny. Perhaps I need to qualify that by saying I didn’t find much humor in it. One of the scenes at night school is worth a smile, and another one in which Bella gives Kevin a fight lesson is all right, but I thought the most original bit occurred early in the film when Kevin is locked out of the school and has to sneak into his classroom through a window. The explanation he offers the class is pretty clever. But three humorous segments do not make a good comedy.

Those who are fans of slapstick humor may get a chuckle or two out of watching Kevin get the hell beaten and kicked out of him during the fight scenes, but I thought all these segments lacked any real punch. James, who was one of the writers for the film, explained in the production notes why he made MMA the type of fighting in the movie.

“I’ve always been a fan. I became a fan back in 1993 when Bas Rutten was fighting, and I’ve watched every event I could since then. I’ve been able to meet a lot of the fighters. Not only are they great people, but family people, guys you might not expect would be battling it out in a cage or in the Octagon.

“The reason I wanted to do the movie is that I love the sport. I love the athletes. I think it’s great that they can fight, and then, when it’s over, they can hug, be buddies, grab a beer. And we came up with a story that I thought went well with that, one that showed how an ordinary guy could fit into that world. All of that inspired me to get into shape so it was believable that I could actually do it. Well, maybe not perfectly believable. We always wanted the movie to be about an ordinary guy who throws himself into an extreme situation. I had to get to the point that I could fight in the Octagon, but also live a normal life and enjoy cheesecake.”

Although the film is an inferior comedy, it is not so bad that it’s unwatchable for two reasons. The first is the presence of Winkler in the role of Marty. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this guy who made the name of Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli a household word from 1974 to 1984, when “Happy Days” ruled as one of the best sitcoms on television. No matter what part he plays these days, he will always be the “Fonz,” and I really enjoy watching him.

The other thing keeping the movie from being complete waste of time is its humanitarian message about how far a true friend will go to help someone in trouble. As a former teacher, I did like the setting of the high school, and toward its end, the film made a very good point about what teachers can do to inspire and motivate their students.

For these reasons, let’s give “Here Comes the Boom” a final score of five.  If you opt to see it, however, don’t pay the full price and don’t expect to get a big bang for your bucks.

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