Over the last decade or so, Kevin James has found his niche. He stars in wacky, slapstick movies about bumbling losers who are defined by their occupations. Think of it as the big screen version of the Simpsons episodes where Homer gets a new job for a few days and everything goes wrong. Whether he’s a mall cop or a zookeeper, as long as Kevin James is falling down a lot and mugging for the camera, filmgoing audiences seem to come out en masse. At first glance, Here Comes the Boom seems to be the latest film that sticks to what has now become James’ M.O. Here he’s playing a schlubby high school teacher who tries to join the world of mixed martial arts in order to make a quick buck. Predictably, Kevin fall down and go boom.
But a funny thing happens as you keep watching the new Here Comes the Boom trailer. It starts to become clear that this isn’t James’ usual slapstick movie at all. Sure, there’s some of that in here, but this time he seems to be serving up a whole new tonal spin on things. Instead of being a wacky comedy, this one looks like it’s James taking a swing at making a legitimate, sappy sports drama. Here he isn’t the goofy teacher who’s in over his head, he’s the hero teacher who will go to any lengths to help his kids. He isn’t the fat guy who looks funny trying to do things because he’s too fat, he looks like he actually got into pretty good shape, and he’s trying to prove that he has more to offer as a performer than just being the laughingstock.
While it’s no secret that audiences love their sappy sports dramas ‐ especially if they look as generically inspirational as Here Comes the Boom does ‐ will the same folks that routinely walk into the theater to laugh at Kevin James humiliating himself be willing to come out and see him being the hero? And even if this movie does pull off the feat of convincing everyone that James can get the job done in an MMA ring, will it be able to do the same when it comes time for his character to win the heart of sexpot Salma Hayek? It’s always nice to see a performer trying to broaden their horizons, but in this case James may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Here Comes the Boom opens on October 12th. [Fandango]