Kevin James is a name that is usually followed by a lot of sighing and comments such as "The new Adam Sandler and not in a good way". For sure films such as Paul Blart Mall Cop & Zookeeper may not be to everyone's taste and they usually are very hit and miss, but what you may not know is that Kevin James is also a huge MMA fan and his latest movie exudes this from it's pores. It's also quite a landmark moment too as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) who are extremely protective of their brand have allowed the film to be endorsed by them too.
Former wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old bored biology teacher at Wilkinson High School. When Budget cutbacks are announced at the school, they jeopardize the continuation of its music program, which would result in its teacher, Marty (Henry Winkler), being laid off. Concerned for both his colleague and his students, Voss attempts to raise the $48,000 necessary to keep the music program alive.
At first, he works as a night instructor for a citizenship class. One of his students, Niko (Bas Rutten), approaches him to get some outside tutoring and Voss reluctantly agrees. When he arrives at Niko's apartment, he realizes that Niko was a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. While watching UFC at Niko's apartment, Voss learns that the loser of the fight receives $10,000, which gives him the idea of raising the money by fighting in MMA himself.Scott then decides that with his wrestling background he could raise the money by taking part in MMA bouts. With mixed results and a unfortunate incident involving some apple sauce and a downed opponent, Scott's plight soon makes the attention of the UFC and commentator Joe Rogan (Himself, who also appeared in Kevin James Zookeeper), soon Scott finds himself facing Ken Dietrich (Krzysztof Soszynski) a fearsome UFC fighter who doesn't think that this amateur upstart should be anywhere near a MMA ring.
Kevin James is a movie form of Marmite, you are either going to love him or hate him. However as with anything there's an exception to every rule and for a MMA fan this may very well be it. There have been MMA movies before (Never Back Down, Warrior) which have been more about the sport in a more serious manner, especially the recent and rather excellent Warrior. While Here Comes The Boom is a comedy, doesn't poke fun at the sport directly, more the situation of James's character and people's current perceptions of the sport. So MMA fans can rest assured that this won't denigrate the sport that they all love (It's currently the fastest growing sport in the world).
While reasonably formulaic, the film does feature a lot of humorous spots for the MMA fan, including a brilliant moment with former Middleweight and now Light Heavyweight contender Chael Sonnen (In fact this moment alone garners the film an extra star). Various other MMA personalities pop up during the course of the film too including Jason "Mayhem" Miller, referee Herb Dean, Commentators Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan to name but a few. With Bas Rutten, who is an extremely charismatic person in his own right, means that the film manages to have some extremely funny moments, but never strays too far from the mark. Also, having Henry Winkler in the film, adds to the genuine human touch to of the story in a very delicate, but borderline eccentric performance (Think a retired version of Barry Zuckerkorn from Arrested Development, but with a more caring lilt). In fact, the story actually makes this film quite hard to dislike anyway. The every-man against the odds story works itself up perfectly up to the UFC showdown, where you are never quite sure, just how it will end. Also in the current financial climate the film manages to touch on a raw nerve for funding for schooling programmes and the reduction of the more creative subjects too.
If there's any complaint it's that Salma Hayek could have done with her role expanding somewhat and that there is no real established villain of the piece. But for fight fans, this is a great way to draw in new fans to the sport and have quite a few laughs along the way. No doubts the event that Scott competes at (UFC 176: Carwin vs. Dos Santos) will raise a smile or two from any self respecting MMA fan too.