Inspirational teacher goes to the mat in ‘Boom’
In Scott Voss' corner are Niko (Bas Rutten), Marty (Henry Winkler) and Mark Dellagrotte (as himself) in "Here Comes the Boom."
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:14AM
“Here Comes the Boom”
I had a high school teacher who would have made an even tougher Mixed Martial Arts contender than Kevin James does in this mildly entertaining and moderately uplifting inspirational family comedy.
Like James’ Mr. Voss, she was a biology teacher, so she understood the law of the jungle. It’s true she was a good 20 years older than James and she didn’t have his fireplug physique. But she was tall, lean and sinewy. Scrappy, too. She used to threaten to ram a pool cue through our ears if she thought we were getting uppity. And she kept one by her desk. All in all, I’d be a lot more worried about facing her in a cage match than Mr. Voss, who, when you get right down to it, is basically a big teddy bear with a soft heart.
That’s how Voss winds up in the ring in the first place. Even though he’s basically a lazy, burned-out lump when “Here Comes the Boom” begins, reading the sports page during class, he was once an inspired, dedicated Teacher of the Year winner.
And he still has enough admiration for good teaching to be outraged when he learns the school’s music program is about to be axed because of a budget deficit. This means his friend Marty, the gifted, beloved music teacher (Henry Winkler) will lose his job — right after learning his 48-year-old wife has miraculously become pregnant. Voss stands up during a faculty meeting to protest and hears that the only way to save Marty’s job is to earn $48,000 by the end of the semester. Which he vows to do.
Easier said than done, though, considering that Voss’s only means of earning extra cash is teaching a civics class to immigrants for $8 an hour. Fortunately, he makes friends with a Swedish immigrant named Niko (Bas Ruten) who used to be a professional fighter while giving him extra tutoring at home — where he learns, after watching a pro MMA match, that the loser earned $10,000. All he had to do was get pounded into the canvas for about five minutes. “I could do that,” thinks the former high-school wrestling champion, now middle-aged, overweight and hopelessly deluded. Brave, though; very brave.
And so he does, after convincing Niko to train him, starting at the bottom in local fights where chickens roam around among the audience. After being knocked unconscious in his first fight, about three seconds after it begins, Voss earns $750. Which means all he has to do is get laid out 40 or 50 times to meet his fundraising goal. And, perhaps, to prove to sexy, though previously disdainful, fellow teacher Ms. Flores (Salma Hayek) that he is not entirely a waste of space after all.
It wouldn’t make much of a fun movie, though (unless you happen to get off on vicarious masochism), so James, who co-wrote “Boom” with “King of Queens” writer Rock Reuben, eventually has Voss decide it would be better to start winning. Because it pays more and hurts less.
The minute he does that, “The Boom” goes into sub-“Rocky” mode, with Voss training in earnest and persevering despite impossible odds. Though it’s sub-“Rocky” with a bit of “To Sir with Love” thrown in (or name your own favorite inspirational teacher movie). Because when Voss decides to become a winner, he inspires his students and, more importantly, himself. And rediscovers the long-dormant Teacher of the Year within.
Even though all of that is predictable, it’s not unsatisfying if you’re feeling tolerant. Even though veteran Adam Sandler (serving here as executive-producer) and director Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer,” “The Waterboy”) never really get the laughs going and the idea of James facing off against assorted big, mean and terrifying opponents is never even vaguely credible.
Just make sure, if you see it, to reconfigure your willing suspension of disbelief to its most forgiving settings.