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Here Comes the Boom 

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★★★

Starring Kevin James, Bas Rutten, Henry Winkler and Salma Hayek. Written by Kevin James and Rock Reuben. Directed by Frank Coraci. Produced by Kevin James, Marty Ewing, Gino Falsetto, Todd Garner, Aimee Keen, Adam Milano, Rock Reuben and Jeff Sussman.

I know what you're thinking – Here Comes The Boom is just going to be like every other Kevin James film and capitalize on the looks of its bumbly leading man. But you'll be surprised to see that this film genuinely likes its subject matter, engulfing itself into the bizarre world of MMA fighting rather than poking fun at it. The family-friendly story is a lot like the light comedy version of Warrior, where the testosterone and competition only sets the stage for heart-warming laughter and inspiration – which works in some ways and doesn't in others.

Upon hearing the news that the music department is going to be shut down and his friend, Marty Streb (Winkler) is going to lose his job, grade school teacher Scott Voss (James) is compelled to help him, and takes on the responsibility of raising $50,000 to fund the department. Luckily, he has been tutoring a professional trainer, Niko (Rutten) in preparation of his U.S. citizenship, and already has a small background in wrestling, so his plan to earn the money by entering in matches and tournaments is not only possible, but easy to achieve – that is, until he fights his way to the big leagues and has to go up against some phenomenal and more experienced fighters.

Throughout the movie, Scott learns how important education is and how much his students mean to him, and transforms in a way that James portrays realistically, starting off as the nice guy slacker and turning into a passionate teacher. The script is juvenile, overusing some of the physical aspects of the sport, particularly when Niko is training and conditioning Scott – there's plenty of slapstick happening at this point.

Unexpectedly funny performances from Hayek as the school nurse and Rutten as a foreign athlete make this film more watchable than it could have been, both making James the straight guy for once. While it never fully develops into a straight comedy, it also never develops into a drama, making it a cute but forgettable movie that's appropriate enough to take the kids to see.

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