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 who is burdened and burned out.
But he's touched when a budget cut threatens the music program run by his colleague, Mr. Streb (Henry Winkler). He'll raise the $48,000 needed to save his friend's job and his orchestra.
Bake sales won't be enough, so Scott convinces mixed-martial-artist Niko (Bas Rutten) to train him so that he can get into the ring, take a beating and get paid for it.
Which is what he does, running afoul of school policy and impressing the nurse (Salma Hayek), whom he flirts with constantly.
James is in fighting trim here, the latest in a line of overweight yet graceful funnymen.
Winkler has his best role since, what, "Night Shift"?
Director Frank ("Zookeeper") Coraci does a great job with the fights and the slapstick stuff, and keeps his camera pointed at James, whenever possible.
The movie has too much inside-baseball about mixed-martial arts. Faces show up, and the entire audience is supposed to know who these guys are. It's a growing sport, sure. But it's still a fringe dweller, and I wouldn't know Mark DellaGrotte from the third-string cornerback of the Buffalo Bills.
Also, the violence of the bouts is well beyond what should be allowed in 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.