Director: James Griffiths
Writer: Jon Brown, based on an original idea by Nick Frost
Cast: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, Ian McShane
Running Length: 98 mins
Synopsis: In 1987 a 13-year-old, natural-born dancer with fire in his heels and snakes in his hips is working himself up to explode all over the UK Junior Salsa Championships. But when a bullying incident on the mean streets of London robs him of his confidence, our young hero finds his life diverted down a very different path. 22 years later, an adult Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) finds himself out of shape and unloved, trapped in a downward spiral of self-pity and repression. Only Julia (Rashida Jones), his smart, funny, gorgeous new American boss, gives him reason to live. But she’s out of his league. Luckily for him, she also has a secret passion. Thus, Bruce is once again brought face-to-face with the darkest and most powerful of his inner demons. Somehow, someway, Bruce must learn how to unshackle his dancing beast, regain his long lost fury and claim the love of his life…and he’s going to do it all on the dance floor.
Review: I’m a big fan of dancing movies – Strictly Ballroom remains one of my favourites, but even the cheesiest dancing franchises will get me shimmying to the nearest cinema. Cuban Fury seems at first glance to be a perfect marriage of two genres – dancing and comedy – that we haven’t seen in quite some time, but unfortunately it doesn’t exactly live up to its promise. While still a perfectly acceptable comedy, the film runs rather limp for much of its running time, livening up in all too brief bursts.
This is Nick Frost’s first solo outing, and while he remains a pretty charming actor with excellent comic timing (one of the opening scenes in which he digs into a four-pack of mini yoghurt tubs is a master class in precision comedy), and Rashida Jones turns up her charm to 11, the true stars of the movie are the supporting actors. Chris O’Dowd is impossibly slimy and abominable as the office lecher, and Olivia Colman shines as Bruce’s cocktail waitress sister, but the biggest scene stealer is Kayvan Novak. His portrayal of Bejan, a fellow dance student, is such a memorable take on what could have been a derivative, boring character, that he effortlessly steals Frost’s thunder every time they appear together.
A dance movie, even a comedy like this one, lives and dies by its dance routines. And this aspect is the biggest failing of Cuban Fury – not only is there a distinct lack of “proper” dance sequences (even the finale feels watered down), it’s quite easy to tell that even with (supposedly) months of training, Nick Frost is not a dancer and simply can’t convince as a lapsed salsa dancing prodigy. There’s a good office dance-off between O’Dowd and Frost, but it’s too little and arguably a little too late.
Thus, what should have been a cracking combination of dance and comedy ends up feeling a little short on both ends, and though it will still leave hardcore rom-com enthusiasts feeling satisfied, it would not do so well in the more critical eyes of a typical cinemagoer.
Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)