This is the type of movie critics are going to rip apart. They’re not going to pull their punches as they have at it. Perhaps it’s because I went in with low expectations that I kind of had fun with it.
I did wonder something about Joe Rogan, who played himself. He’s a comedian that has made a nice career for himself as a commentator for these MMA fights. He is also well-known in comedy circles for calling fellow comedian Carlos Mencia out for stealing a routine. It was a huge on the internet. Well, I was wondering if Rogan did this with Kevin James when he saw the script. James, who is an amazing stand-up, is the co-writer of the script. Did Rogan get in his face and tell him that he was borrowing heavily from Rocky, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and last year’s mixed martial arts film Warrior? Or do writer/comedians get a pass when they’re signing your paycheck?
The story is about a high school biology teacher that takes an extra job to help save the music department. It’s run by the wonderfully charming Henry Winkler (Happy Days). James first second job is teaching foreigners how to become American citizens. He quickly drops that for a higher paying job – getting his butt kicked as a mixed martial arts fighter. The story is a little more plausible since they tell you he was a successful wrestler back in the day.
What really made the movie for me was his real life training, playing his trainer in the movie. It’s former MMA fighter Bas Rutten. His accent, facial expressions, and lines were perfect. He steals the show.
There wasn’t much about Salma Hayek’s character I cared for, other than one scene in which she playfully fights with James over dinner. And as the school nurse, you wonder how many kids would be showing up in that office claiming to be sick.
The script is, as comedians would say, hacky as hell. It was formula, and you see these punches telegraphed a mile away.
The children in this moved me, and I found it a tad inspirational. I didn’t care much for School of Rock, and I’m a big Jack Black fan. I felt that since he didn’t care as a teacher, it was hard for me to ever root for him. It isn’t until late in the movie when he comforts an overweight girl that lacks self-esteem, that he shows a heart. At that point, it was late in the game.
James gets you on his side early on when he sticks up for Winkler, who he just found out is having a baby with a much younger wife. It’s also nice that they didn’t go for a cheap laugh with a knock out that looked 18. She is in her early 40s, and they’re an adorable couple, ordering instruments of eBay to fix up for the poor students.
The movie might be rated PG for the violent fighting scenes, but it’s fine for the whole family. It might be lightweight entertainment, but you could do worse.
It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.