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 the first things on the chopping block when Principal Betcher (Greg Germann) has to slash the budget, Scott is moved to act. He'll raise the $48,000 needed 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 cash, either. But that collision with a collection of semi-stereotypes is where Scott meets the gregarious Niko, played with an amateurish verve by martial artist Bas Rutten.
Niko may teach "disco street fighting" classes at the swanky health club down the street. But he used to be a mixed martial arts fighter. Scott convinces this Dutch brawler to train him so that he can get into the ring, take a beating, and get paid for it.
James is in fighting trim here, the latest in a line of overweight yet graceful funnymen. He's developed a comfortable screen presence that takes away the impression that he was working too hard for laughs.
Winkler has his best role since, what, Night Shift? And James, Winkler, Hayek, and Rutten make an amusing ensemble and click together.
As Here Comes the Boom winds toward the ending we all see coming, the violence can be a bit much. Mixed martial arts is a bloody, brutal sport, and the movie doesn't flinch from that. Apparently the movie-ratings board dozed off during the fights. It's not a PG sport and the graphic violence means this isn't a PG movie.
Here Comes the Boom **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Frank Coraci. With Kevin James, Henry Winkler, Salma Hayek. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 min.
Parent's guide: PG (MMA violence, rude humor, profanity)
Playing at: area theaters