To paraphrase the quip that started the David Cross/Patton Oswalt feud, the script for Here Comes the Boom feels like something Vince Vaughn read and threw across the room -- where it promptly hit Kevin James in the head.
The movie’s main character, Scott Voss (James), is a burned-out teacher who begins a career as an MMA fighter in order to raise the money necessary to save his high school’s music program. The character’s arc, as he goes from disinterested slob to warmhearted good guy, fits Vaughn’s persona perfectly, but James co-wrote the screenplay, so he obviously intended it for himself all along.
Produced by Adam Sandler and directed by longtime Sandler collaborator Frank Coraci, Here Comes the Boom does not lack competency. It moves along at a solid pace, there’s a well-timed puking gag, the climactic fight scene effectively builds a little bit of tension, and the cast are uniformly likable -- you have to work hard to make Henry Winkler (playing the band instructor whose job is on the line) and Salma Hayek (the hot school nurse Scott wants to date) annoying. Former MMA fighter Bas Rutten gets many of the movie’s best moments as a Dutch immigrant who trains Scott, and he has enough charisma that you kind of wish the film focused more on him than James.
There’s not much more to say about the movie, aside from the fact that it’s yet another by-the-numbers project from a performer who seems unwilling or unable to challenge himself or his audience. He’s happy to paint himself as a second-rate Vince Vaughn this time out, and looking back over James’ career, isn’t “second-rate” really the best adjective to describe it? King of Queens was a ratings hit, but it was never as respected or popular as Everybody Loves Raymond when they both aired (often on the same night) on CBS. The romantic comedy Hitch allowed him to ride Will Smith’s substantial box-office coattails to a promising film career that found James quickly coming under the guidance of Adam Sandler in the firefighters-pretending-to-be-gay movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. He became a leading man with the limp, family-friendly Paul Blart: Mall Cop (produced by Sandler), and rehashed Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Dolittle franchise with Zookeeper (again produced by Sandler).
Being second-rate is not an inherently awful quality. After all, James has effectively established himself as a safe and genial screen presence, and he seems happy to be this for the rest of his life -- “this” being the comedic equivalent of Burger King. While there are some people who will argue a Whopper is so much better than a Big Mac, nobody thinks about it after they’ve eaten it. Like that Whopper, Here Comes the Boom will leave your body almost as quickly as it goes in. leave a comment --Perry Seibert