Film Review: Cuban Fury

Mark Frost expands the Cornetto comedy brand by reaching out to the ladies: Instead of lads getting drunk and duking it out with zombies and aliens, they’re, well, how to put it? Dancing in the Bars?

A sweet if modest movie that delivers precisely what it promises, Cuban Fury benefits from a likeable cast, insouciant direction and genial lack of pretense, much like the British pub kitted out in tropical drag where some of the film unfolds: We can’t help but chuckle at the silliness of it all. Unlikely leading man Nick Frost, best known as Simon Pegg’s sidekick in the so-called Cornetto Trilogy—Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End—has tinkered with the tried-and-true formula of those satires to broaden the demographic. Think ladies’ night at that Caribbean pub. With salsa dancing. And romance.

Frost plays Bruce Garrett, an overweight, out-of-shape industrial designer who, like his nerdy pals (Rory Kinnear and Tim Plester), can’t get a date. Office colleague Drew (Chris O’Dowd), a bit of a professional Irishman, never misses an opportunity to take the piss, especially if a pretty girl is involved. When the company hires a new marketer, Julia (Rashida Jones), Drew ups the insult ante (“Women like that use guys like you to get advice about guys like me”) even as he lays down the gauntlet (“You can look, but you can’t touch”). Julia, however, loves to salsa, and that turns out to be Bruce’s secret weapon. A competitive dancer when he was young, he was destined for fame if not fortune until a group of toughs roughed him over for dressing like a sissy, a trauma that caused him to retire his ballroom brogues—until now.

Right, then. Cuban Fury is what you might expect—fat jokes and pratfalls, with the usual suspects: Kayvan Novak as Bejan, the gay Brazilian (“I’m going to be late for my ball wax”); Olivia Colman as Sam, Bruce’s ever-supportive sister (“Oh, feet of flame!”) and Ian McShane as Ron Parfitt, besotted salsa guru to the stars (“legs of a stallion, arms of an eagle…I said eagle, not a flipping heron!”). Frost and Jones have a charming meet-cute, and while it would be an exaggeration to say they have chemistry, they are easy to watch and keep us cheering for their characters, with O’Dowd acting the bumptious foil.

Cameraman Dick Pope and editors Jonathan Amos and Chris Dickens barely manage to make Frost light on his feet—more often than not, he’s made to resemble Hyacinth Hippo—so you’ll need to suspend disbelief to enter into the spirit of the thing (although, in the finale, his inch-and-a-half heels do catch fire). He and O’Dowd, Cornetto-style, engage in a martial-salsa pas de deux in a car park (watch for the cameo drive-by) that might be more of a climax than the actual fandango at the end. It’s all in good fun, the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome, and even wallflowers will vouchsafe the feel-good ending. As they say on the dance floor, “You gotta reach out and grab it!”

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