"Here Comes the Boom," which stormed into theaters last Friday, likely will not be a contender in the Academy Awards race; however, it is worth recommendation because it is one of the funniest feel-good family movies of the year and also has a great message about standing up for something you believe in, even if it costs you. Not a bad theme for a movie released during an election year.
The Adam Sandler-produced comedy casts former "The King of Queens" star Kevin James, 47, as Scott Voss, a disillusioned Boston biology teacher and one-time college wrestler moved to embark on a mixed martial arts career to earn $50,000 so he can save his school's music program, which is about to be axed due to budget cuts, leaving beloved, passionate teacher, played by "Happy Days" icon Henry Winkler, without a job.
The film admittedly will require viewers to suspend their disbelief when Scott smacks down some scary-looking, professional fighters after only limited physical training. Also a stretch in the credibility department is when Ultimate Fighting Championship organizers are so touched by why Scott is fighting, they fly most of his school out to Las Vegas to cheer him on for a competition instead of just giving him the money he needs to save the music program. [Then again, that might speak to how a good television moment is regarded by some as a better investment than children's futures.]
What was entirely believable is James' earnest portrayal of a big-hearted, middle-class guy who just needs a little inspiration to reignite his own love of teaching and, in turn, become a hero to his students. It's easy to root for the likable characters as they deal with the threats of job loss, school program cuts and looming bills -- very real problems many Americans are facing today.
As Marty, Winkler embodies the spirit of the best teacher you can remember from your own school career and probably hope your own kids are fortunate enough to have one day. Salma Hayek gamely embraces her role as Bella, a feisty school nurse with a low tolerance for bureaucracy, while Sebastian Rutten, a retired Dutch mixed martial artist, is terrific as Scott's trainer, who is enthusiastically studying for his U.S. citizenship exam with Scott's help.
The bottom line is "Here Comes the Boom" is a delightful, PG-rated popcorn movie I laughed at continuously while watching with my 11-year-old son. I'm not ashamed to admit my eyes even welled up with tears when the happy ending arrived. It also was a pleasure to enjoy a movie with my kid and not have to cringe because it is rife with foul language and sexual situations. One word of caution, though. Some of the fight scenes are a little intense and might not be appropriate for younger viewers. All in all, it's great family fun.