Kid-friendly funnyman Kevin James is at his cuddliest in Here Comes the Boom. And he has to be. This amusing but sometimes unsettling comedy marries the teacher-turns-to-mixed martial arts mayhem of Warrior to that wholesome family dramedy Mr. Holland's Opus.
It works, after a fashion. But that doesn't mean you won't wince.
James plays Scott Voss, a Boston high school biology teacher who is a decade past his "Teacher of the Year" days. He's a burnout, habitually late for class, not shy about telling even that rare eager student (singer-actress Charice) that what he's teaching and what they're learning "just doesn't matter."
But he's touched by seeing that rare colleague who is still inspired and inspiring. And when put-upon Mr. Streb (Henry Winkler) and his music program are the first things on the chopping block when the principal has to slash the budget, Scott is moved to act. He'll raise the $48,000 needed to save his friend's job and his orchestra.
Bake sales won't be enough. Part-time work teaching citizenship classes to immigrants won't raise much cash, either. But that collision with a collection of semi- stereotypes is where Scott meets gregarious for mixed-martial arts fighter Niko, played with amateurish verve by former MMA artist Bas Rutten.
Scott convinces this Dutch brawler (the accent comes and goes) to train him so Scott can get into the ring, take a beating and get paid for it.
James is in fighting trim here, the latest in a line of overweight yet graceful funnymen. He's developed a comfortable screen presence that takes away the impression he was working too hard for laughs.
Winkler has his best role since, what, Night Shift?
The importance of high school music programs is emphasized, the struggles schools face in tight times are played up. But there's too much inside baseball stuff regarding mixed-martial arts.
Even though Boom doesn't pull its punches, it's still a lightweight genre picture, a patchwork comedy that makes good use of its biggest patch, Kevin James.