The thing about fluff is that it is absolutely harmless. “Here Comes the Boom” is a family comedy that has quite a few people getting punched in the face, kneed in the gut, and bloodied up a bit, but on the surface it’s about as tame as a small dog. It follows an extremely affable high school biology teacher named Scott Voss (Kevin James) who raises money for his school’s dwindling budget the only feasible way—by becoming a mixed martial arts fighter, of course.
Alright, alright, so the premise is preposterous. James, whose former heftiness has dwindled down to a healthy huskiness, is the kind of guy you’d believe as a former high school wrestler, though perhaps not on the same level as the muscle-loaded brawlers who occupy the MMA circuit. It’s a goofy idea that leads to some pure, wholehearted comedy, and characters so gosh darn likable that it’s hard to resist the movie’s ridiculous charm.
James, to begin with, is still a talented physical comedian in my book—doing the best he can with the junk often given to him by Adam Sandler’s production comedy Happy Madison, which frequently pokes fun at the fact that James is overweight.
There’s some of this humor in “Here Comes the Boom,” but not a lot of it. Surprisingly, the fattest thing about the movie is its heart, which bursts at the seams in attempts to warm the audience. The sentiments occasionally come off as fabricated, but just as often they feel authentically rich.
James’ character is an almost implausibly nice guy who balances a variety of acts that puts other people’s priorities above his own, including the music teacher, played here in an endearingly silly performance by Henry Winkler. Just watching Winkler wave his arms about while conducting a student orchestra is some of the funniest physical comedy I’ve watched this year. I don’t know why, but Winkler just knows how to tickle my funny bone.
As does James, and I think he will rise to the occasion of far better material when somebody actually gives him the chance to do so. “Here Comes the Boom” is a decent start, filling the void of live-action family comedies with an imperfect, though effective, product. It has plenty of kinks, and who wouldn’t expect a film of this caliber to be riddled with them, but they are forgivable, as the movie becomes something remarkably unanticipated in the long run.
First off, it brought a smile to my face. Then a laugh to my gut. And these both came without ever having to sacrifice my intelligence. Yes, the movie has some stupid moments. Yes, the plot is absurd. But no, you won’t be bored. The film is hardly a boom, but one thing I can guarantee is that it is never a whimper.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.