Kevin James seems like an essentially likable guy a quality that's been the cornerstone of his career. A few years ago he halfheartedly tried to break out of the King of Queens schlub-with-hot-wife mold in Ron Howard's The Dilemma with poor results. His latest Here Comes the Boom feels like James' second attempt to quit that Queens pigeonholing.
James plays Scott Voss a surly 42-year-old biology teacher who rides a motorcycle to school and is always butting heads with the principal mostly because he's a crappy teacher. He was Teacher of the Year 10 years ago but now he barely deigns to look up from the sports page during class to answer his best student's question. On the other hand Marty (Henry Winkler) is the kind of music teacher who buys old instruments to fix up for his less fortunate students. School budget cuts mean that Marty and his program will be the first to go so Scott figures that if they raise $48K they'll save Marty's job and the program. (It also bears mentioning that Marty really needs his job because he just found out his wife is pregnant.) After a convoluted series of events Scott decides MMA fighting is the best way to raise that money because even if you lose you still get a lot of dough. (You also get the crap kicked out of you but hey he wrestled in college… 20 years ago.)
Along the way Scott's enthusiasm for teaching and life itself is invigorated by regularly getting his butt handed to him by slick-muscled monsters in rickety fighting rings. His joie de vivre is infectious; it even gets his sneering students involved in biology! And it might win over the hot nurse at school Bella who spends most of the movie gently rebuffing his dogged advances. (Bella is played by Salma Hayek because you knew there was going to be an extraordinarily beautiful woman to be James's love interest right?)
Almost every joke in Boom falls flat even though some of them would read funny on paper. Watching Henry Winkler try to pump up an MMA audience for Kevin James is tantamount to watching Fonzie waterski over a shark for 105 minutes straight. As for James his rhythm and delivery is attuned to sitcom writing where you have to cram in your epiphanies between commercials and there's an accented pause after every throwaway one-liner. When we first see Scott zipping through the streets on his motorcycle I had hope that maybe this would be a different sort of role for James who we root for because of his big brown Labrador eyes but there's not much to Scott or his adventures that demands attention.
Bas Rutten plays Niko a former MMA fighter from Holland that Scott teaches in a citizenship class that trains Scott for his fights. Rutten who is actually a former MMA fighter from Holland seems to be having fun as a freaky gym trainer who teaches everything from yoga to spin class. He's got a glint in his eye that makes me want to see him onscreen with Udo Kier in a Lars von Trier movie. After a while though even Rutten's manic performance begins to grate.
Boom is full of the laziest sort of writing where Scott's best student Malia (Charice) is an Asian immigrant who learned to speak English through music and that's why music programs and teachers like Marty are so important and worth all the sprains dislocated shoulders and projectile vomiting. Every moment that will figure into the story later like the look on Bella's face when she sees Scott dancing jauntily on his desk to entertain his science students lands with a thud. There's not a whole lot to say about director Frank Coraci's work here; the sports scenes are serviceable but everything else is fairly flat and static.
Boom is a bizarre hybrid of the MMA-flavored family drama Warrior and every high school teacher movie ever made from Mr. Holland's Opus and Dead Poets Society to last month's Won't Back Down. The lack of any sort of developed family dynamics or fleshed-out characters makes it impossible to connect with Boom on the same level as viewers did with Warrior and the MMA fight scenes aren't nearly beefy enough to make up for what the movie lacks in humor subtlety realism or authenticity.
In the early 2000s, the winds of Hollywood carried the name of an artist to be known: David Gordon Green. A sincere, introspective director who'd create works like George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Undertow. Only a few years into his film career, Green had already neared a degree of reverence most auteurs could only dream of. But following his 2007 picture Snow Angels, Green found a new path: a path of laughter. Drug- and sex-infused laughter, riddled with Francos and Rogens and McBrides. Starting in 2008, the director has churned out an array of raunchy, lowbrow comedies: Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter, and counting. As this is the David Gordon Green with which we've become familiar, his newest claim might be particularly surprising: a Little House on the Prairie movie adaptation.
Deadline reports that Green is in talks to handle the project, with Abi Morgan pegged to write the script. In other words, it just got weirder. One of Morgan's greatest achievements is the 2011 Michael Fassbender film Shame, a quiet, deliberate, and poetic look at a haunting, jarring sex addiction. The idea of Morgan teaming with a post-'07 Green is alone an odd bit of news, but the fact that these two are tackling a Little House on the Prairie movie might fuel some very stirring nightmares.
The wholesome-as-Grandma's-gingerbread 1970s drama (based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's 1930s book series) was indelibly sincere, both in its handling of the broader strokes of love and family values, and in some of its darker turns, dealing with prejudice and rape. But even episodes centering on such themes as these would not hold a candle to the dark, hellish mood encompassed by Morgan's Shame script. In fact, in light of the air of cynicism and self-awareness with which all modern projects are inherently battered, a Little House on the Prairie film would be hard pressed to capture the character of the original show.
So what kind of Little House are we in for? One with the cutting trauma that laced Shame? Something with the earnest romance present in each of Green's earlier movies? Or will this be a piece of go-for-broke madness, channeling Your Highness (hey, they're both period pieces!), The Sitter (children! families!), and Pineapple Express (people smoked pot on prairies in the 1800s, right?), to create a zany comedic look at the television classic? No matter what, we're prepared for something weird. But that doesn't mean it won't also be something very interesting.
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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Hearing Bas Rutten utter "It's too dangerous" seems almost laughable. After all, the Netherlands-born mixed martial artist has been fighting professionally since he was 20 years old. But that's exactly what he tells Kevin James in this exclusive new clip from the upcoming Here Comes the Boom and considering the circumstances, it's sage advice.
In the movie, James plays Scott Voss, a biology teacher who sees an opportunity in MMA fighting when his school's extra-curricular activities are in jeopardy of being canceled. Voss may be schlubby, but in MMA, even the losers make prize money. Rutten plays his trainer Niko, who is on board for the plan… until Voss' ambition gets ahead of him.
Here Comes the Boom should offer James the opportunity of a real heartfelt performance, but the uplifting tale doesn't skimp on the comedy. Even Rutten gets his moment in the spotlight. Watch the clip below to see James push Rutten a bit too far for a man entirely comprised of muscle:
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[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]
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