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Actors (from left) Bas Rutten, Henry Winkler, Mark Dellagrotte, Kevin James star in 'Here Comes the Boom.'
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BY ROGER MOORE
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
Kid-friendly funnyman Kevin James is at his cuddliest in "Here Comes the Boom." And he has to be.
This amusing but sometimes unsettling comedy marries the teacher-turns-to-mixed-martial-arts mayhem of "Warrior" to that wholesome family dramedy "Mr. Holland's Opus."
It works, after a fashion. But that doesn't mean you won't wince.
James plays Scott Voss, a Boston high school biology teacher a decade past his "Teacher of the Year" days.
He's a burnout, habitually late, not shy about saying what he's teaching "just doesn't matter."
But he's touched by seeing that rare colleague who is still inspired and inspiring. And when put-upon Mr. Streb (Henry Winkler) and his music program are on the chopping block when Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) has to slash the budget, Scott is moved. He'll raise the $48,000 to save his friend's job and his orchestra.
Bake sales won't be enough, as the fetching school nurse (Salma Hayek) discovers. And part-time work teaching citizenship classes to immigrants won't raise much, either. But that collision with a collection of semi-stereotypes is where Scott meets the gregarious Niko, played with amateurish verve by martial artist Bas Rutten.
James is fighting trim here. Winkler has his best role since, what, "Night Shift"? And James, Winkler, Hayek and Rutten make an amusing ensemble and click.
The importance of high school music programs is emphasized, the struggles schools face in tight times are played up.
Director Frank ("Zookeeper") Coraci does a great job with the fights and the slapstick stuff, and keeps his camera pointed at James, wherever possible.
But here's something the movie botches. There's too much "Inside Baseball" stuff regarding mixed-martial arts.
And as "Here Comes the Boom"--the song Scott wants as his enter-the-arena music--winds toward the ending we all see coming, the violence can be a bit much.
Mixed-martial arts is a bloody, brutal, brawling sport. The movie doesn't flinch from that, and apparently the movie ratings board dozed off during the fights. This isn't a PG movie.
But even though "Boom" doesn't pull its punches, it's still a lightweight genre picture, a patchwork comedy that makes good use of its biggest patch--Kevin James.
HERE COMES THE BOOM
STARRING: Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Salma Hayek, Greg Germann
CREDITS: Directed by Frank Coraci, written by Kevin James, Rock Reuben and Allan Loeb. A Radius release. Running time: 1:45.
RATED: PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language.
THEATERS: Fredericksburg 14, Aquia 10, Marquee Cinemas