'Here Comes the Boom' movie review

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

Long-time celebrity mixed martial arts (MMA) fan Kevin James, who is often spotted ringside at major UFC events, is such a strong supporter of the fastest growing sport in the world that he decided to make a major motion picture about it, featuring cameos of several recognizable fighters.

Better late than never.

With Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) AWOL until a week from this Saturday, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have been left with a big, violent hole in their schedules for the last couple of weekends, forcing many of them to do productive things like follow the election, clean up their houses, and be overall helpful members of society ...

I'm sorry, I can't say that with a straight face. If you're anything like me, you've done nothing of value.

Me, I went and saw "Here Comes the Boom," Kevin James' new MMA comedy. Was it worth it? Let's find out.

The Premise:

James plays Scott Voss, a biology teacher of truly titanic apathy whose classes comprise his students drawing on their desks while he reads the sports pages. When budget cuts threaten to end the music program run by his eccentric friend Marty Streb (played by "The Fonz" himself, Henry Winkler), however, he vows to raise the necessary money with the help of the other teachers.

With most of the staff sharing his lethargy, however, the only people who show up to the brainstorming session Marty puts together are Voss and Bella (Selma Hayek), the school nurse who Voss has been unsuccessfully trying to rope into a date for years.

Voss, fairly certain it's a hopeless endeavor, goes back to teaching nighttime citizenship classes for some extra scratch, where he meets boisterous Dutch immigrant Niko (Bas Rutten playing Bas Rutten). Impressed by Niko's passion, Voss agrees to meet him at his house to help him study, where he finds Niko and his associates watching the UFC 97 bout between Brian Stann and Krzysztof Soszynski (the latter renamed "Ken Dietrich," presumably convincing the actors to pronounce "Krzysztof" was beyond the budget).

After finding out that Stann made $10,000 despite losing, Voss -- a former collegiate wrestling standout -- thinks he's found his meal ticket. While his initial plan is to just go in and lose enough fights to make the money, he finds a true passion for the sport after scoring a knockout, leading him down a road that invigorates himself, his coworkers, and his students as he heads for a collision course with Dietrich.

But is it any good?

Is the movie predictable? Yes. Do a lot of the jokes fall flat? Yes. Is the movie worth watching? Yes.

For lack of a better word, this is a movie it's hard to watch without smiling. A lot of this is due to James' obvious love and knowledge of the sport. This is a movie by MMA fans, for MMA fans, with references ranging from the subtle (his early smoker opponents being played by everyone from Mark Munoz to Satoshi Ishii) to the not-so-subtle (Frye-Takayama is name-dropped during the climactic bout).

The fights themselves are well-choreographed and fairly accurate and the actors are pretty clearly having a great time, with Rutten in particular stealing the show in every scene he's in.

If you come in expecting "Warrior," you're going to be disappointed. If you come in expecting a constant stream of gut-busting jokes, you're going to be disappointed. If you come in expecting a fun, surprisingly-engrossing flick with a deep love for its subject matter, you're going to have a good time pointing out all the nods toward the sport's history and watching a fat guy hurt himself.

Go check it out before UFC 154 rolls around ... you've got nothing better to do.

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