Saturday, September 22, 2012

Comedy More Effectively Sells The Need For Teachers Who Try In Here Comes The Boom!

The Good: Decent plot, Interesting characters, Decent acting, Excellent direction
The Bad: Utterly predictable plot arcs, Forces the comedy at times
The Basics: Here Comes The Boom very effectively explores one man’s attempt to save the job of a teacher whom he is impressed by.

Education is one of the button issues this election cycle. At least, that is what Hollywood is hoping viewers will think. At least two major motion pictures coming out this Oscar Pandering Season involve teachers or parents who go to extraordinary lengths to try to change the system. The second of those films is Here Comes The Boom.

Here Comes The Boom takes a different tact than the preachy, dramatic Won’t Back Down (reviewed here!)and perhaps the biggest surprise of the comedy is that it is actually a better film than the obvious Oscarbait. Here Comes The Boom is a comedy, in fact, it is determined to be a comedy even at a few moments when it has to force the jokes to keep the tone light. In that regard, the preview trailers for Here Comes The Boom do not mislead the viewer. Unfortunately, some of the best moments from every key scene in Here Comes The Boom are spoiled in the trailer. Fortunately, there are some pretty fun moments and lines not ruined by the trailer (“This is a terrible mattress; I’m feeling everything!” comes instantly to mind). And while there is a surprise late in the film, Here Comes The Boom is largely predictable and spoiled by the trailers.

But, it is also solidly entertaining and does not come off as dreary or obvious the way Won’t Back Down did. Instead, Here Comes The Boom utilizes the conceits that might make it an obvious comedy and one that follows much of what one expects from a film Adam Sandler is involved in (it seems like he was credited onscreen as an executive producer and, regardless, his production company, Happy Madison Productions, produced the film). But even with all that and a trailer that shows moments from the last fifteen minutes (a serious pet peeve of mine that I think ought to result in exile from media for those involved), Here Comes The Boom is actually, truly, entertaining and it has heartwarming moments that balance the humor well.

Focusing on the 2002 teacher of the year at Wilkenson High School in Massachusetts, Here Comes The Boom finds Scott Voss a decade later disenchanted and having to sneak his way into the school at which he teaches when he is habitually late. Docked for the day by Principal Becher, Scott Voss wanders around without caring. Even so, he follows the music to the classroom of Marty, the music teacher. There, he sees the students he sees bored and disengaged, playing, learning, and excited about playing for Marty. While trying to weasel out of his bus duty, Scott learns (at the same time as Marty) that Marty’s 48 year-old wife is pregnant. Scott is insensitive about the good news - in addition to the feelings of the school nurse, Bella Flores, whom he lazily hits on fifteen times – until a meeting for the staff is called and Becher cuts the music program. In an uncharacteristic move, Scott Voss stands up and declares that the teachers will raise the $48,000 needed to keep Marty’s job.

When only Voss, Marty and Flores show up to try to save Marty’s job, Scott goes back to teaching citizenship classes at night. There, he meets Niko, an enthusiastic trainer from Holland. Niko wants extra tutoring and when Scott goes to his house to tutor him, he learns that the loser in a UFC match on television there earned $10,000. Frustrated with how little money he is making to save Marty’s job, he decides to take up mixed martial arts to pay the bill. Setting out to lose enough matches to pay the $48,000, Voss begins turning money in to the vice principal as Niko and one of Niko’s friends train Scott. After some initial tough losses, Scott is inspired when he actually wins a match and as he becomes physically wounded, but psychologically empowered, Scott begins to return to form as a teacher. When the opportunity comes to actually fight in a UFC match, Voss sees a fast way to finish his payments and save Marty’s job.

Here Comes The Boom includes obvious subplots – Niko’s quest for citizenship, Voss’s Filipino student Malia being pressured to work at her father’s restaurant as opposed to continuing her music, Voss hitting on Bella and Scott’s brother Eric being frustrated with his work and family life – that are virtually the definition of formulaic. But the main thrust of the plot seems initially as formulaic, but covers its bases well. Scott is not fighting for the love of Bella and he only keeps his resolve for getting beaten up in the ring by seeing Marty’s struggle and realizing that Marty has not told his wife that his job is in peril. From the first moments, it is pretty obvious that Scott is impressed with the depth of Marty’s interest in the children he teaches.

The film is also smart in limiting its scope. Voss instantly puts together that Becher is cutting music because it eliminates both Marty’s salary and his tenured position. The film is not about changing the entire education system. This is a quest by one man to save another man’s job. This makes Voss and Becher philosophical adversaries for the main plot of the movie. Calling Becher out on that in front of the other staff leads to some very funny moments, but the film does not fail to address the underlying problem. The education system is flawed and it creates teachers who simply do not care. But even that is presented smartly; while Voss needs his career reboot, it is clear that Marty loves every moment of what he does and has never lost his passion for the craft.

For the most part, the humor is organic and dialogue-based. At the first meeting of the interested teachers to save Marty’s job, there is a wonderful exchange between Voss and Flores that plays off Salma Hayek’s accent in a delightful way. There is a familiar feeling to the dialogue when Voss points out “You showed up” to an indignant Bella’s response of “You shut up!” which Scott corrects with “I said you showed up.” Even with the sense that we might have seen or heard something similar, Kevin James and Salma Hayek sell it.

That is not to say all of the jokes land. Here Comes The Boom resorts to obvious, forced humor, like when Voss vomits on one of his opponents . . . repeatedly. Scenes like that make it surprising that the film landed a PG rating. Most of the humor is subtle enough to go over the heads of the under 13 crowd, but Here Comes The Boom is packed with sports violence that is very intense. It also made is very possible to believe that Here Comes The Boom might actually end with a Rocky-style ending (it doesn’t; the film opts for a clear resolution).

To his credit, director Frank Coraci assembles Here Comes The Boom well. The fight sequences are well-choreographed and are mostly gruesome to watch. The inevitable montage sequence is well-made and comes up at a decent time in the film (still, it made me wish that much of the montage had not been in the preview trailer . . . again professional banishment is what the individuals or firm that created the trailer deserves!). But Coraci’s real magic is that he gets decent performances out of everyone in the cast.

Sure, Joe Rogan is playing himself and Salma Hayek’s role is minimal and well beneath her talents, but Kevin James carries the role of Scott Voss in a way that is engaging. One of the stand-out performances in Here Comes The Boom actually comes ridiculously early in the movie. When Voss stands up for Marty, Harry Winkler, who plays Marty, provides an exceptional performance. Simply mouthing the words “thank you,” Winkler manages to perfectly emote the desperation of his character. Even the young actors give decent portrayals of the students.

In the end, Here Comes The Boom is not an incredible movie, but it manages to take a serious issue and explore a ridiculous solution to that problem in a thoroughly entertaining (if not particularly innovative) way.

For other works with Kevin James, please check out my reviews of:
You Don't Mess With The Zohan
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry
50 First Dates


Check out how this film ranks against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the movies are organized from best to worst!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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