A noble, though unoriginal, fight
By Sean O’Connell
Friday, October 12, 2012
If only more people had seen Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior,” then maybe we could’ve been spared “Here Comes the Boom.”
The plot of the 2011 mixed-martial arts drama and Kevin James’s recent knockoff are too similar to ignore the comparison. In each, a blue-collar science teacher must raise a significant amount of cash or he’ll lose something valuable. Ignoring the advice of those around him, the timid educator enrolls in amateur mixed martial arts fights. How can he resist? He once fought in college, and even the loser takes home more prize money than a classroom teacher earns in a week. Only he doesn’t lose. He wins, climbing the ranks until he has earned a shot at a pro fight -- and a massive payday.
While O’Connor’s magnificent “Warrior” scored Nick Nolte a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, the film largely went ignored at the multiplexes. (Do yourself a favor and rent it.) Does that, however, grant James the freedom to tell essentially the same story, only with a predictable mix of bodily-fluid gags and painful pratfalls?
Apparently so. James plays Scott Voss, a Boston biology teacher who comes to the aid of the school’s gentle music instructor, Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), when the board tries to cut extracurricular activities -- band, included. Voss needs to earn $48,000 to keep Streb’s gig, and bake sales and car washes aren’t going to cut it. So the one-time wrestler looks into MMA, where the loser of a bout can bank $10,000 and the winner clears a cool $50,000.
For the most part, “Boom” lazily follows Adam Sandler’s proven recipe for box-office success. Safe, predictable director Frank Coraci (“The Waterboy,” “The Wedding Singer”) does the bare minimum, punching the clock and dutifully pointing his camera at James for the next vomit joke. Sandler holdovers like Winkler and “Grown Ups” beauty Salma Hayek waltz through the motions while contributing next to nothing.
Because of James, however, “Boom” isn’t a total bust. The genial entertainer remains as likable as a slobbering puppy dog. Few actors are as in tune with their target audience’s needs as James, and “Boom” caters directly to them with gratuitous physical sequences of the portly performer slip-sliding around a rain-soaked ring or falling on his face as he fails to dunk a basketball.
But what’s missing from this color-by-numbers screenplay is the bizarre touch of eccentric humor Sandler often lets creep into his comedies. The recent “That’s My Boy” wasn’t good. But at least it had the decency to attempt memorably lewd bits about Sandler sleeping with senior citizens. By comparison, the generic “Boom” comes off as bland; it needed to land a knockout blow.
Contains some rude humor, language and bouts of combat sports violence.