Named after a P.O.D. song that was popular for a few months about a decade ago, Frank Coraci’s Here Comes the Boom sees Kevin James diverging from his largely insufferable stock and trade. He looks leaner, acts tougher, and though his character is essentially foolish, the actor’s physicality and demeanor are more self-serious. Which isn’t to say he’s unwilling to get a bit roughed up or fall flat on his face. As Scott Voss, a Boston biology teacher with a serious lack of motivation, James isn’t scared to tumble through a school window or bounce off a trampoline and slam into the floor in an attempt to impress the comely school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). And when Voss begins to enter small-time MMA fights in the hopes of raising money to ensure that his music-teacher friend, Marty (Henry Winkler), can keep his job and students will have a music program, he takes all manner of beatings, even with retired fighter Niko (MMA legend Bas Rutten) training him.
As a comedy, the film aims low and manages to miss the mark entirely. The tone is earnestly masculine, and though the script gets some comic mileage out of the foreign students Voss tutors for their citizenship exam, including Niko, the gags are of a similar caliber, if less wildly unfunny, than those one would find in any given Adam Sandler vehicle. There’s even an utterly useless B plot involving Voss’s brother (played by longtime James collaborator Gary Valentine) that recycles “marriage is hell” jokes that were stale when Al Bundy spewed them. Here Comes the Boom features an assemblage of blockbuster clichés that’s almost impressive in the scope of its calculated, hollow, and completely meaningless entertainment value: fight sequences, love stories, children in peril, bureaucratic coldness, economic turmoil, an unexpected pregnancy, revived careers and passions, sports talk, ignored talent, and Joe Rogan. The plot follows a general “let’s save the orphanage!” structure, leading Voss from local fights to a sudden chance to fight UFC star Ken Dietrich (Krzysztof Soszynski), but the convoluted mass of subplots is nearly as familiar in its cumulative predictability.
Even the film’s good intentions are hugely suspect, for this is essentially the most expensive promotional tool for the UFC ever produced. For all the talk about the importance of education and smart, invested teachers, Here Comes the Boom rarely feels the need to pay more than lip service to the very real schooling problems in the U.S., and the few moments of education that we’re made privy to are utilized more as instances of Voss dressing better and acting like less of a douche, all in the service of courting Bella. Spending more time stressing the importance of viral YouTube fame, hitting the gym, and violence-as-career than it does on the problems with our education system, the film plays on sympathies and hopes in the most vilest ways imaginable, and does it all with a grin and a strut, to the point that even something as dismissible and positive as the concluding utterance of “Viva America!” sends a shiver of cynicism up one’s spine.