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When high school biology teacher and all-around sad sack Scott Voss (James) learns that his cash-strapped employers are contemplating cutting the school’s music program – taught by Scott’s elderly wise-guy pal Marty (Winkler, actually turning in the best performance in the picture) – he dives into the world of mixed martial arts to help save the music. If that quick synopsis sounds asinine as opposed to inspiring, you’ve hit this mug right on the kisser. After sitting through this cliche-ridden exercise in broad comedy, with its earnest discussion of the importance of the arts in kids’ lives and Kevin James’ incessant mugging, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many real-world high school music and arts programs could have been saved from impending extinction by simply not making this movie and donating the film’s budget to actual schools in need (of which there are thousands, by the way).
Between Scott’s puppy-dog pining for school nurse Bella (Hayek), the evil machinations of the school principal (Germann), and the actual fight scenes of Scott – a former college wrestler who’s clearly gone to seed – Here Comes the Boom hits every dopey note in the “save the school” subgenre playbook. It’s not offensive so much as it is dumb, although the emphasis on bone-cracking violence to solve your social-welfare problems sends, at best, a mixed message.
Had this been a Thai or Malaysian genre entry along the lines of Prachya Pinkaew’s sly 2008 butt-kicker Chocolate – wherein the female protagonist (the amazing JeeJa Yanin) uses her uncanny martial-arts skills to save her mother and defeat assorted baddies – or even one of those muay thai dust-ups where the unlikely hero saves the day, the village, and/or the school music program (take your pick) through sheer punch-up pluck, I’d be more inclined to invest my emotions in the action onscreen. Director Coraci (a frequent helmer of Adam Sandler’s increasingly exasperating output) does little to inspire anything but a roundhouse right to his jaw for making such an annoyingly cookie-cutter “inspirational dramedy.” Here Comes the Bomb would’ve been a more fitting title, but props to Henry Winkler for rising to the occasion and turning in a sweet, idealistic performance in a film that otherwise feels like a tawdry commercial for the UFC and MMA.