Starring: Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Salma Hayek, Melissa Peterman, Joe Rogan, Reggie Lee
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Genres: Sports, Action, Comedy
In the comedy Here Comes the Boom, former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old apathetic biology teacher in a failing high school. When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program and lay off its teacher (Henry Winkler,) Scott begins to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks Scott is crazy - most of all the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek) - but in his quest, Scott gains something he never expected as he becomes a sensation that rallies the entire school. -- (C) Official Site
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Michael Beach, Kyle Chandler, Catherine Zeta-Jones
The sizeable funnyman Kevin James has a point to make, apparently, about the state of schools in the US. At least, that's what this ho-hum, join-the-dots comedy would have you believe - except for the rather crucial fact that it's produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Maddison Productions outfit: a multiplex-serving machine not known for its in-depth analysis (or smart satirical swipes).
Here, the portly James plays the bored biology teacher Scott Voss. Yet when cutbacks are announced to his school's music programme - which would see his colleague, Marty Streb (the television veteran Henry Winkler) shown the door - Voss leaps, or rather slides, into action to raise the necessary cash required to keep things as they are.
How does he do this? By wrestling, of course. Which, shock horror, turns out to be his calling card. Before long, the whole school's behind him. Even, apparently, the nurse, Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), who spurns his advances.
Unlike Sandler, James remains relatively inoffensive for audiences (and more obscure, to some extent). His roly-poly frame serves this type of material as best it can, although the idea that he could wind up with a stunning Hispanic beauty is stretching matters a tad too far.
Hayek similarly strolls through, as does Winkler - whose work offers appear to be forever hampered by his Happy Days heyday, some 30 years on - but, as with Sandler's recent outings, it plays out like forgettable fluff.
There's hardly a serious message being made about the plight of America's education system here - for that, see Davis Guggenheim's documentary Waiting for Superman - which makes one wonder what the point of it is, beyond lining the producers' pockets.
James, the former star of TV's The King of Queens, knows how to deliver solidly in support (2005's Hitch being a notable example), yet doesn't have the wherewithal to carry even the most routine material across the line. Perhaps, in time, that will change. But his leading man's ambitions continue to elude him for now. Rather than playing funny and nice, he'd be better advised to mine a darker vein: one that might have a more limited audience but would at least make better use of his frame.
And if there is comedy to be found with him appearing continually shirtless, you won't find it here.