This movie is advertised as a “Kevin James comedy.” James co-wrote the script, produced and stars in the movie. To be benevolent it is misguided. James plays Scott Voss, a high school biology teacher who wants to raise money for his school’s music program, run by Henry Winkler. The only way he can do it, apparently, is to enter MMA fights and lose. The entire movie consists of Voss entering and fighting in brutal MMA fights. The target audience is apparently children. If there was anything funny in it, I missed it.
I loathe boxing. Equally loathsome are boxing movies, except Humphrey Bogart’s The Harder They Fall (1956), which was really an anti-boxing movie, which is why I liked it.
Boxing is an anachronistic remnant of the Roman gladiatorial age. It consists of two people (now women are engaging in boxing, certainly not an advancement of our civilization) who are trying to beat each other to a pulp. An activity like this has no place in a civilized society.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an extreme version of boxing. People can kick, hit their opponent when they are down, and do virtually anything to win the match. Statistics show that more than 25% of boxing and MMA participants suffer injuries.
The third most common injury for MMA fighters is concussion, which is not surprising since the goal of each fighter is to knock the other fighter into a state of unconsciousness. In fact, concussions are a much-underappreciated injury in sport. The NFL is finally realizing it and taking measures to protect its players from head injuries. In preliminary results reported in April 2012 as part of an ongoing study of 109 professional boxers and MMA fighters being conducted by Dr. Charles Bernick and his colleagues at Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, fighters with more than six years of ring experience were observed to have reductions in size in their hippocampus and thalamus whereas fighters with more than twelve years of ring experience were observed to have both reductions in size and symptoms such as memory loss (the hippocampus and thalamus deal with memory and alertness).
This movie shows one scene in which James is pounding his opponent’s head into the mat and it bounces up and down with each blow. Another scene shows James so beat up that he can’t see clearly, speak clearly, or think clearly, obviously symptoms of a concussion. Yet neither scene leads to the conclusion that the victim has suffered any consequence at all. They both walk away all smiles and almost unmarked.
This exaltation of visual violence with no consequences desensitizes viewers to violence, which can result in mindless brutality, like the ruthless, unprovoked attack at Dodger Stadium on a San Francisco Giants fan who was hit in the head and has suffered permanent brain damage. It is particularly inappropriate for impressionable children.
While the film seems to have a good moral, a man who risks life and limb for the good of his students, it glorifies the vicious fighting in MMA. In fact the final dénouement is 10 to 15 minutes of brutal fighting in which Voss fights a guy who looks and acts like a killer. He gets brutally beaten in the first two rounds. When he comes back in the third round people in the audience, including his girlfriend Salma Hayek and his youthful students, look like bloodthirsty Romans in the Colosseum, yelling for Voss to pulverize his opponent, apparently not recognizing that his opponent was a human being.
My screening had lots of children in it. Because the producers apparently want to appeal to children, this is a particularly despicable, feckless film. Equally disappointing is that Winkler, who is the co-author of 17 children’s books and has a record of doing good things, especially for children, would be a part of an irresponsible, destructive movie like this.