Let me just preface this review by noting that the headline is not exactly a compliment to the shoddy, unremarkable history of Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison, whose first film was 1999’s Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo. Heretofore, the best film in that company’s massively and unjustly profitable history was 50 First Dates, and besting that TBS turd is not exactly a high bar. In fact, Here Comes the Boom isn’t even funny, and that’s the best thing you can say about the movie. It’s essentially a Happy Madison film stripped of fart jokes, goofy YABBA DABBA voices, and those sophisticated booby and poo-poo jokes, which is to say: Here Comes the Boom is a straight-up adaptation of Underdog Formula: The Movie.
Kevin James, who co-wrote the script with Hollywood’s least creative screenwriter, Allan Loeb (Just Go With It, The Dilemma, The Switch, other movies you’ve already forgotten ever existed), takes as many disparate underdog elements as possible from other formula-films and crams them into the Happy Madison template: There’s an over-the-hill school teacher (Kevin James) stumbling into MMA competitions (where have we seen that recently?) as a means to raise money to save the high school music program. Oh, but wait: There’s also the job of the music teacher (Henry Winkler) at stake, and for good measure, let’s just go ahead and throw in a group of immigrants trying to pass their American citizenship test. There’s also a love interest (Salma Hayek), the requisite callback (I am deathly sick of predictable studio-comedy callbacks), and big soaring orchestral music to remind you that you’re supposed to be inspired. I could almost sense Adam Sandler standing behind the film’s music editor exclaiming: “The film will make another $1 million for every swelling violin!
It’s a C-minus movie, but that’s honestly an improvement over most Happy Madison fare, and it manages to exceed expectations by taking the least obnoxious people from the Adam Sandler’s regular crew (James, Hayek, and Winkler) and ask of them only to be themselves. Kevin James, limited as he is as an actor, is a likable personality, and when he’s not being weighed down by crass Paul Blart-level jokes and look-at-me-I’m-fat pratfalls, is easygoing and charismatic enough to keep you awake. Salma Hayek is gorgeous and winning, and the two together have the friendly chemistry of two people who have worked together before and like one another. Winkler, of course, is Sandler’s go-to inspirational figure, and he fills in the stock character with his typically daffy sitcom gravitas. No matter how badly written the role, it’s impossible to actively dislike The Fonz.
There are also a few cameos, including a part for Joe Rogan — whose had a successful second career as a UFC announcer — as himself, but most of the cameos I suspect aren’t even familiar to you unless you follow UFC. If you do follow the the sport, don’t expect much by way of cool fight sequences; it’s a family film, so the brutality is sanitized, poorly shot and bad choreographed. Mostly, it’s a series of Kevin James’ reaction shots: Here’s Kevin James getting a blow to the face; here’s Kevin James getting kicked in the testes; here’s Kevin James reacting with surprise to the power of his own punches. Here’s Kevin James collecting a paycheck when shooting is finished.
But hey! It’s the first Happy Madison film in years, maybe ever, that did not make me feel completely disgusted with the Hollywood studio system, that didn’t provoke hatred for the characters, and that did not inspire bloodlust at the thought of the film’s inevitable box-office success. So, congratulations Kevin James: You’ve raised the bar from antipathy to indifference!