Way back when (in 1978, to be specific), when Hollywood thought that Henry Winkler might be able to ride his popularity as the Fonz on TV’s “Happy Days” to leading-man status on the big screen, he stared in “The One and Only,” a movie comedy loosely based on the real life of professional wrestler George “Gorgeous George” Wagner.
Time passes — it is ever thus — and now Winkler is playing second fiddle to Kevin James (“The King of Queens"), another TV sitcom star-turned would-be movie funnyman in a comedy about a high school teacher who becomes a mixed martial arts fighter in “Here Comes the Boom.”
Sorry to say, but “Boom” is no better, and no funnier, than the barely recalled “One and Only.”
In this one, James portrays Scott Voss, a bored, 42-year old science teacher in Boston who can’t be bothered to make it to class on time or answer questions from his students. But when the job of a fellow teacher, veteran music instructor Marty Streb (Henry Winkler), is threatened due to funding cuts, Voss vows to raise the $48,000 needed to save his colleague’s job and the music department.
How to do it? That’s where mixed martial arts come in. Voss decides that, despite the fact that he’s no one’s idea of an impressive physical specimen, he will duke it out in amateur and eventually professional ultimate fighting contests to raise the money. (It helps that he wrestled in college.)
Many knockdowns and predictable plot twists later, he, Streb, various other supporting characters (including the school’s dishy nurse, played by a slumming Salma Hayek) and the entire school orchestra, are in Las Vegas as Voss takes on a scary and skilled opponent (Krzysztof Soszynski), whose nickname is “The Executioner,” in the ring at the MGM Grand.
“Boom” chugs along in unsurprising and herky-jerky fashion — transitional scenes often appear to be missing — but is well-meaning at heart. It will appeal to younger viewers.
James is a likable presence if not a particularly nuanced actor. Hayek has fun sassily blowing off his character’s advances while Gary Valentine, James’ real life older brother, has been conveniently cast as his older sibling here.
The movie’s message, that music education is vital in public schools, is a worthy one. Then again, couldn’t the filmmakers have just donated “Boom’s” entire multi-million dollar budget to a non-profit advocating for music programs in schools instead of making the movie? That would have been a more artful call.