Remember last year when you didn't go see Warrior, that movie where Joel Edgerton was the high school teacher who resumed his former life as a mixed martial arts brawler in order to save his home from foreclosure, only to realize that he had to fight Tom Hardy, his own estranged brother? Well, now there's this new movie where Kevin James is a high school teacher who used to wrestle in the 9th grade and he becomes a kicking-and-punching bag in that sporting arena so he can raise money to save his school's orchestra from budget cuts. It's like the Disney Channel sitcom version of that other movie, for people who like their mixed martial arts violence to be not so ouchy or hurty.
And that's not such a bad deal. James's primary function in the world is to be the kind, decent guy you root for, a stand-in for all Regular Joes and beleaguered schlubs. You don't want to witness him getting knocked around too much because you don't want to get knocked around too much yourself. If he makes a grand gesture and saves something important for someone else at a not unreasonable amount of personal sacrifice, you can imagine yourself doing the same thing and basking in that big shared payoff. And when Salma Hayek looks at him with that face that says, "YOU CAN GET IT," then that means she -- or her real-time equivalent -- is eager for your romance as well.
All it really takes to get on board for a movie like this is walking into the theater. It meets you where you are. And if you're also willing to accept The Dumb, then so much the better for everyone. The Dumb is that thing where brutal UFC bouts result in minor cuts and scrapes, PG-trickles of fake blood. The Dumb is 15-minutes-ago Christian Nu-Metal anthems in 2012 and sometimes-Glee-cast-member Charice adorably belting out a Neil Diamond song at the big match. The Dumb is comedy firehoses of vomit as the punchline to an earlier scene where James eats rancid applesauce. The Dumb is mean people turning nice and disaffected teens becoming engaged with learning because the power of James' innate stand-up-bro-ness and inspirational biology lessons compel them. The Dumb is butt-crack humor and MMA fighter Krzysztof Soszynski as a fictional person named Ken Dietrich (who moves like a CGI dragon but whose name is changed for... what reason exactly? Ego protection from a KJ knockout?). The Dumb is other real MMA guy Bas Rutten engaged in something called Disco Street Fighting. Never heard of it? Me neither. But it's in this movie. And it doesn't matter. Because it's all as mildly funny as possible and as sweet as it can be. I know, I know, fighting isn't supposed to be sweet. Just go with it.