Blood, sweat and laughs, Here Comes The Boom is essentially the classic “save-the-institution / race against time” movie mixed with Rocky and a satisfyingly heavy pinch of Adam Sandler style comedy. Written by its star Kevin James, Here Comes The Boom is the story of jaded high school biology teacher Scott Voss and his unexpected rise to international mixed martial arts fame in his quest to save his school’s music program.

Prior to his quest being thrust upon him, Voss’ gets through the day by teaching and trying to score a date with school nurse Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), who persistently shrugs off his half-arsed advances. One day, whilst trying to shirk bus duty, he is surprised to learn that his friend and ageing music teacher Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) is a soon to be father. As if that wasn’t enough, later that same day, the school’s principal drops the bombshell that sets the story in motion: due to a budget crisis, the entire extracurricular activities program is to be cut at the end of the semester. The imminent threat to Marty’s world as he knows it spurs Voss into action, pledging to raise the $48,000 required to stop the axe falling on his friend’s career.

Unsupported in his aims by all but Bella and Marty, Voss tries all he can to find a way, but teaching citizenship evening classes to hopeful US-citizens-to-be barely makes a dent in the huge sum required to reach their goal. However, when visiting Dutch fitness instructor Niko (Bas Rutten) to give extra citizenship tuition, he watches an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout and learns that  defeated competitors earn ten thousand dollars. This is Voss’s light-bulb moment, and a semi-professional career in cage fighting ensues despite his only pugilistic experience as a little high school wrestling.

Barrel-chested Kevin James is easy to root for as the life-weary and over-the-hill teacher-cum-fighter, bringing the laughs on cue in a steady stream of satisfying gags and physical sequences. Winkler is endearing as the mild and naïve music teacher who is way out of his depth, while Hayek manages to pull a steady and memorable turn out of the bag as the beautiful but feisty love interest. Surprisingly, Rutten steals the show on numerous occasions, delivering some of the film’s best jokes with an unexpected skill given his huge physical presence and lack of facial expression.

An hour and three quarters of narrative clichés, belly-laughs and brain-out fun, Here Comes The Boom tears up no trees in its search for originality. Every ‘twist’ is predictable – there’s the inevitable training montage, and you just know Voss will end up getting the girl no matter what. In the climactic fight sequences you’re rooting as much for the screenwriters to pull a surprise out of the bag as you are for the protagonist. However, if you’re capable of checking your thirst for originality and the unexpected in at the cloakroom, Here Comes The Boom will please you enough to be worth the price of admission and the 105 minutes of your life.

Paul Farrant

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