In “Here Comes the Boom” Happy Madison Productions grows up…well, just a little Review

Director Frank Coraci's Here Comes the Boom is the classic underdog tale of a slacker high school biology teacher (Kevin James) who takes on a mission much larger than anything he had previously undertaken and in the process, garners the support of a motley crew of the people he loves.

Kevin James stars as Scott Voss, a forty-two year old teacher at Wilkinson High School in Boston, MA. Once a Division I wrestling star in college, he has since become a biology teacher, indifferent towards his students and incapable of making it to class on-time. The one thing he is intent on doing is convincing school nurse Bella Flores (played the perpetually graceful and bafflingly ageless Salma Hayek) to date him. But tragedy strikes in the form of a threat to cut down the school’s extra-curricular programs, particularly the music program, due to budget cuts. Among those threatened is Marty Streb (the charmingly cute and clueless Henry Winkler), the beloved music teacher.

Long story short, they need to make $48,000 before the end of the semester or lives will be destroyed. Having accidentally committed to cause, James realizes the best way to make the money is by getting involved in the world of MMA (mixed martial arts to those of you who are as ill-informed as I was.) With the help of Nurse Flores, Mr. Streb, one of the biology students, Malia De La Cruz (played by Philippine superstar and former Glee cast member Charice), his brother Eric (James’ real-life brother Gary Valentine), his citizenship student-cum-trainer Niko (Dutch UFC Champion Bas Rutten), and MMA trainer Mark DellaGrotte, Voss fights to change the system and in the process, regain the passion he once had for the school.

Some might complain this was not the movie they expected – they wanted the gags, the projectile vomit, someone getting accidentally hit in the nuts with a hockey stick (as opposed to inside the MMA ring, where it is a regular occurrence). Well haters, keep hating. Okay, I’ll admit, even the trailer made those who saw it roll their eyes, giggle, then quietly mutter, “Oh brother, another one.” I was one of those people.  But this movie succeeds because it hits on all the ‘trendy’ topics – the significance of school reforms, the problems with the economy, particularly unemployment, and yes, even MMA and the UFC are becoming increasingly popular sports to watch on Sunday nights.

There are other films that tackle the same subjects: last year’s critically-acclaimed Warrior, and the recent release Won’t Back Down, about mothers taking over their kids’ school. But with the cast of familiar faces, though we may not have seen some of them in a while, and the use of good-hearted humor, Here Comes the Boom not only showcases the potential of Happy Madison Productions, but also undertakes serious and incredibly relevant problems in today’s America and through humor makes them issues that are not to be avoided because of their seriousness but problems that are accessible and to which all of us can relate.

Anyone watching movies during the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s will probably have vague memories of Happy Madison creations such as the Deuce Bigelow movies, Little Nicky, and The Hot Chick. (Or as I like to call it, the filmography of Rob Schneider.) While a few dramatic movies like Reign Over Me and Funny People were produced by the company’s subsidiary, Madison 23, Happy Madison is best-remembered and admittedly, well-loved ,for the ones featuring blue-collar guys partaking in crude physical humor with a touch of good-natured heart. Recently however, the company has turned out questionable fare including the likes ofGrown-UpsPaul Blart: Mall Cop, and Jack and Jill. (Come on Adam Sandler, what was that?!) While it may not deliver raucous laughs induced by grotesque slapstick humor or that voice Adam Sandler uses when his character is mocking someone else, Here Comes the Boom is akin to 2003’s 50 First Dates: a humorous take on a serious problem, resulting in a gentler, well-balanced Happy Madison feature that calls for quiet appreciative laughs at cheesy, but heartfelt humor.

"Here Comes the Boom" opens October 12, 2012 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Frank Coraci. Written by Kevin James, Allan Loeb, Rock Reuben, . Starring Henry Winkler, Kevin James, Salma Hayek.

Deborah Kenmore • Staff Writer

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