Cage fighting is deemed the answer to ending the global recession in another Kevin James-headlined travesty.
Underdog sports stories should never be judged by their predictable outcome. We know from the outset that the no-hoper hero will overcome adversity, provide a fuzzy feeling of all-round goodness and do so with a smattering of genuine comedy. Usually. But the important thing is always the journey. Always the journey.
In Kevin James' latest outing, Here Comes the Boom, the journey turns out to be a gushingly saccharine tale devoid of charm or wit. Tapping into the current climate of financial cutbacks, we see a Middle American high school facing the brunt of the recession, whose uncertain future is oddly (yet not comically) tethered to the brutal world of… cage fighting!
James plays a despondent teacher Scott Voss, a warped envisioning of Dead Poet's Society's John Keating (and yes, he stands on a table) mashed together with Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher. When Voss discovers that fellow faculty member Marty (a cardigan-clad John Keating (yes, he stands on a table)) is having his music department closed, he decides to enter the world of mixed martial arts in order to raise much-needed funds for the school. Obviously. This leads to the unlikely situation where Voss competes in a showdown in Las Vegas in a UFC competition.
Already (knowingly) bordering on the ridiculous, the plot attempts to provide a series of comic situations which see James’ face smacked against cage walls in fight after fight as he takes on a procession of beefed up muscle men. These moments actually provide the most enjoyment in this asinine comedy, and not just because we see the irritating James beaten to a pulp (payback for The Zookeeper?). The visceral and convincing fight scenes with real life MMA fighters were shot using on-body cameras, providing some more unusual angles that capture the true brutality of the sport while adding moments of light tension to this otherwise tedious farrago.
A weak polemic on immigration is also shoe-horned in: love interest Salma Hayek plays a school nurse with an overblown Mexican accent and former Dutch cage fighter Bas Ratten plays an emotionally unstable fight-trainer seeking US citizenship. This is accompanied by an ill-judged ode to the importance of music, which sees the former Fonzie block-quoting Nietzsche ("without music, life would be a mistake!") accompanied by Rupert Gregson-William’s affected, jarring score.
As the film merrily force-feeds a message about 'having heart' and 'fighting against the odds', we can at least be thankful that James actually made the effort to look the part of a fighter. But when it comes to the hammered-home themes of preserving one's social conscience and the necessity of education, Here Comes the Boom looks more like a paltry comedy stutters in drawing together a needlessly diverse range of subjects.
Intriguing that Kevin James is now writing, producing as well as acting. Is 'intriguing' the right word?
Absent of humour, over-sentimental and with only the briefest moments of tension.
Everything we have come to expect of James – tiresome in the extreme.