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Movie Review: "Here Comes the Boom" with Kevin James, Selma Hayek, and HENRY WINKLER
Budget cuts threaten the arts department and by implication the job of Mr. Strebs (Winkler) the beloved music teacher, who is also expecting a baby. Mr. Voss (James) is an unlikely hero that commits himself to save the arts program out of one part ignorance and one part trying-to-impress-the-girl (Hayek). A night job isn't sufficient to earn the needed funds ($48,000) so ~45-year-old Mr. Voss dawns his college wrestling singlet and picks up MMA fighting to attempt to get some quick cash.
Mr. Voss is Kevin James.
If you have seen Kevin James in a movie, you know what to expect, there is no stretch except he may have seen the weight room a bit while preparing for this part.
Mr. Strebs is not Arthur Fonzarelli.
Henry Winkler is a crack up and the character he plays is unpredictable and entertaining. As a huge fan of the Fonz, it is always fun to see this veteran back in front of the camera. His acting is fluid and without inhibition. The flaw is that his character is not one that appeals to sympathies. As much as the students adore their music teacher, today's economic climate is desensitizing towards the loss of one person's job. Especially the job of someone with a tremendously marketable skillset and what appears to be middle- to upper-class lifestyle. If Streb's small car is supposed to speak to his humble living, it is understated in comparison to his well furnished home and stylish wife.
Bella Flores is the archetypal, comedy, co-starring, female role.
Hayek's performance is remenicsant to Bridgette Wilson-Sampras' unimpressive role in Billy Madison; unlike Wilson-Sampras, Hayek serves as a big name in comparably minor part. Hayek's Oscar winning acting ability is cheapened in this completely transparent school-nurse role. Earning Flores' affection is a motivating factor to Voss, which confounds the moral purpose of the film (i.e. confusing whether Voss is selflessly sacrificing for the good of the arts and a friend in need, with his selfish desire to date Flores). Bella Flores' value to the film (and implicitly the value of women) is stymied by her physical appearance and ability to cheer for a man. One need only look at the humiliating, token donation that she makes to the art program from her bake sale, to understand how the script respect women. Strebs' wife (Nikki Tyler-Flynn) is portrayed as even more useless, she is protected from her husband's challenges, apparently incapable of helping.
Principle Betcher (Greg Germann) steals his scenes.
Greg Germann is one of my favorite minor actors that deserves larger roles. I have been a fan of Germann ever since So I Married an Axe Murderer. He is typically cast as a snide and shallow atagonist, which part he honed to perfection during his leading role as Richard Fish in Ally McBeal (1997-2002). Despite being type-cast his performance is always confident and believable. Because Germann's name typically isn't on the poster, it is always a nice surprise to me when he appears in a movie.
Fortunately I viewed this movie under a false premise, that it was based on a true story. I don't know where I got that idea, but under this impression the film merited more investment than I believe it deserved. When I discovered that, in fact, it was a work of pure fiction I struggled to see why an audience should care at all.
The break-neck speed from which Voss moves from human punching-bag to UFC contender seemed only believable under the assumption that his inadequacy was dramatized for the sake of the movie. Had I known that Mr. Voss never existed, the idea that a lazy, forty-something, biology teacher could advance through a professional fighting circuit in under a year would be laughable at best. Unfortunately the movie doesn't exploit the joke in this plot flaw, but instead hazily employs deus ex machina fixes to impossible circumstances.
Although Mr. Strebs occupies an entertaining space in the script, I see no inherent reason to save his job. He is not honest with his wife, he is depicted as an imbecile (more than once he is degraded to a functioning piece of furniture), and his living circumstances appear to be above middle-class. Throughout the movie his idiocy is juxtaposed against advanced musical abilities and a knowledge-bank of deep philosophy; this contrast is never moved over into his behaviors. That is to say that he is continually walked on and seldom does he stand up for himself or contribute to repairing his own circumstances.
The movie is about saving a music program, but the film does a less than commendable job of selling the worth of music programs. Only one student's character is developed to express the minor benefit music played in helping her learn English. Music has power, and movies even remotely about music should incorporate soundtracks that define that power. To the contrary, this movie depicts music in a very narrow capacity. Strebs, the gifted music teacher, is twice given the opportunity to recommend empowering music, but his choices are out of touch and made into fodder for ridicule. Each of these scenes could have been used to convey the variety of motivational music, or to challenge age-descrimination (if Streb's for instance would have chosen the title track Here Comes the Boom by POD). The message about music in this movie is that academically music remains classical, and athletes are restricted to jock-rock.
Overall the movie comes across as quickfire, box-office, stock footage. It is full of dated stereotype threats mingled with some good jokes from the Happy-Madison cookbook (Oh, surprise! Surprise! Director, Frank Coraci directed Waterboy, The Wedding Singer and Click) As a recent release it would increase the value of a Netflix account, but since it isn't available to stream yet it really just decreases the value of some acting careers.