When someone imagines an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, it's a sure bet that actor/comedian Kevin James isn't a face--or figure--that comes to mind. After the underdog tale Warrior (2011), in which a school teacher with an athletic past defies all odds to rise up the ranks in the UFC competition, 2012's Here Comes The Boom takes a similar idea and puts a different spin on it. Kevin James stars as a high school biology teacher, named Scott Voss, who decides he must help save the doomed music program at school by fighting in MMA matches in an attempt to win the money to do so. While the basic plot is a bit similar, the movies are vastly different in tone and execution, with Boom leaning more so on comedy and heart than Warrior's action and drama. And on its own, Here Comes The Boom succeeds in its attempts.
To enjoy a film like Here Comes The Boom, there's definitely a need to suspend your disbelief. It's highly unlikely for an over-the-hill, husky school teacher to rise to the top as an MMA fighter. Director Frank Coraci and James both seem to be aware of this, so there's a great deal of heart and humor that serve as the gas to keep Here Comes The Boom moving forward. Bas Rutten, a celebrated MMA fighter (and friend of James), plays Scott Voss's trainer, Niko, who helps him survive a few matches before starting to see some real success. Niko brings a lot of surprise humor to the screen as a Dutch immigrant who is trying to earn his citizenship with Voss's help. Meanwhile, at school, Voss--who had gotten jaded as his job due to school politics--is finding his passion in teaching once again, all the while trying to win the attention of a gorgeous school nurse, Bella, played by Salma Hayek. The underdog factors are weighed in heavily here, so it makes it all the more crucial to not take the film too seriously. In a lot of cases, the story is pretty predictable, but the journey is a worthwhile one if viewed with the right mindset.
There's a surprising importance placed on music in Here Comes The Boom. It may even be more so about music than it is about MMA fighting. Voss is friends with the school's music teacher, Marty, who is played by comedic vet Henry Winkler (who played the Fonz on Happy Days), and is a great inspiration to Scott. When Marty's job--and the entire music program in tow--is threatened by the school's jerky principal, Voss volunteers to help spearhead the fundraising necessary to keep the program alive. While support from other faculty members is near nonexistent (save for Marty and Bella), Voss decides to take extreme measures by signing up for MMA. But Marty's passion for music is infectious, and it trickles down throughout various aspects of the film--from the songs chosen before the MMA fights to one of Scott's students, Malia, having a deep love and appreciation for music. What I found pretty funny, too, is the title of the film--ever since I first heard it--always triggered the chorus of the P.O.D. song "Boom" to play in my head. Sure enough, when Voss informs Marty that he's picked his own song to walk out to the match to, it's P.O.D's "Boom." The song gets some serious play time in the movie, including Henry Winkler performing a chilled-out acoustic rendition at one point. It's the perfect song for a movie like this, so I'm glad they used it.
Another surprise element in the film is a little injection of prayer and spirituality. Voss's MMA instructor quotes a passage of scripture to encourage a table of friends when they say grace, and a later scene shows the guys--including James' Voss--bowing for prayer before a match. It's not done heavyhandedly at all, and certainly not in jest, and is a nice little boost of heart for the film. There's a huge, if not a bit idealistic, importance placed on chasing dreams and achieving them, and everything adds up to Here Comes The Boom being a surprisingly inspirational and encouraging film. It's lighthearted, funny, and one of the most fun live action family films I've seen in a long time. Coraci and company did a great job balancing comedy and story in a way that isn't overly surreal or goofy (like a typical Adam Sandler film or any number of today's over-the-top comedies), and it works in the film's favor.
When it comes to content, Here Comes The Boom is mild, aside from heavy doses of MMA fighting. In those fights, there's a brutal mix of punching, kicking, and all kinds of bone-crushing moves. It's rough stuff and not for the faint of heart, but Coraci and James try to keep some of it comical at times (but not cartoony) to keep the mood lighter. In other words, the brutality is nowhere near the level that a movie like Warrior reaches, but you can expect to see some blood and swollen eyes a la Rocky by the film's finale. There is, however, also a scene where Scott gets pretty banged up during an early fight and he ends up K.O.ing his opponent in an unexpected move. Suddenly, and without warning, we see him projectile vomit on the guy while he lies there stupified. And after the first spew, it happens again immediately afterward (we see it coming out of James' mouth both times and the chunky aftermath on the floor and his opponent). We then see it again a couple times later on via a YouTube replay (and in the deleted scenes). The language is mild, too, with 2 uses of the "a" word, 2 "h*ll," and 2 "Oh my G-d" and 1 "G-d" as exclamations. Finally, there are a couple minor crude references, but nothing all that vulgar or explicit--it's still pretty tame for a movie like this. All in all, the violence is what should be considered most.
All things considered, I found Here Comes The Boom to be an absolute delight. Kevin James's charm and brand of humor is entertaining, and that sort of random humor works well for the film in the long run. Despite how idealistic some aspects of the plot are, and how unlikely most of it is, it's still a heartwarming, fun movie that families can enjoy and take a little hope away from.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/17/13)
DVD Special Features Review
Here Comes The Boom is available on Blu-Ray or DVD separately, both with Ultraviolet digital copies as well. We were sent the DVD to review and, being as conditioned to watching Blu-Ray as I am, I'd recommend skipping the DVD and picking up the Blu-Ray if you have HD capabilites. The DVD isn't all that clear on a bigger TV, with some scenes really looking muddy and out of focus, and it also doesn't include nearly as many extras as the Blu-Ray does. The Blu disc offers several additional featurettes in addition to the following DVD extras...
Deleted Scenes (16:37) - There is a whopping collection of 18 deleted scenes included here. Most of them are short, little snippets that aren't even really worth including here, but the standout ones are as follows: An additional scene where Scott comes to class after his first MMA fight and his eye drips blood onto a student's paper and he dashes out of the room; Scott visits Niko after losing that fight to ask for more training; Scott visits Bella in the middle of the night for help; Scott and Niko are jogging with Marty riding in a cart behind them (With a great Twitter gag included); There's a brief classroom prelude to the soda bottle science experiment; There's more of the dinner conversation between Bella and Scott where he asks her why she became a nurse and so she talks about how a teacher had helped her follow her dream of becoming a doctor; We see a replay at the match after Scott pukes on the guy he punched out; There's additional babbling from Scott when he first meets Joe Rogen; Scott meets with vice principal before the final match and then first sees the students' banner that they made for him hanging in his class room. This was a great moment because you could actually see some of their encouraging messages to him; There's a brief moment where Scott meets Rich Franklin before the UFC fight; We see Scott and Bella after the UFC fight and he encourages her to not let go of her dream of becoming a doctor; And finally, there's a so-called "Original Ending" that seems to just be Scott winning one of the little MMA fights and then Rogen and his co-announcer doing some outtakes. I'm not quite sure what exactly that was about.
Gag-Reel (2:27) - There's a short gag reel of mostly just messed up lines while filming. There's no profanity here, but they use an airhorn sound to bleep out Salma Hayek saying the "F" word pretty exaggeratedly (But all of it is bleeped, not just part of it).
Here Comes The Cast (6:26) - This is a short behind-the-scenes featurette about how the cast came together for Here Comes The Boom. Some of it is pretty interesting (like James having a longtime friendship with Bas Rutten, who played Niko), but it's very brief even for a DVD.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/17/13)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Marty asks if it's possible for a 48-year-old woman to get pregnant and Scott responds "it depends, what does she look like?"; When talking to Scott about music history, Marty mentions that Ravel liked to dress up like a lady and asks if that's too risqué; At Marty's house we briefly see a picture of a young Marty lying completely naked with a tuba in front of him, blocking anything explicit; Bella shows some cleavage in her tank top.
Vulgarity/Language: 2 "Oh my G-d," 2 "h*ll," 2 "a" words," 1 "cr*p," 1 "s*cks," 1 "G-d"
Blood/Gore: We see some blood around Scott's face after getting knocked out in a fight; Scott and Dietrich have varying amounts of blood on their faces during an MMA match. One of Scott's eyes is pretty swollen too.
Violence: While training, Scott beats a mattress that Marty is holding; During a fight, Scott takes a knee to the face and collapses, knocked out; We see Niko training Scott with the two of them wrestling/fighting; Bella climbs on Scott and pulls on his arm really hard to reset his shoulder; A science experiment shoots a soda bottle through a window in the school; Bella punches and jumps on Scott to prove a point to Scott about self defense; Niko kicks a ball at the gym in anger and it flies across the room and knocks someone over; Niko, Marty and Scott's trainer have a food fight in their hotel room; And there's LOTS of Mixed Martial Arts fighting during the matches that can be pretty brutal at times -- lots of punching, kicking, choke-holds, etc.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.