There’s a bit of Cuban but not so much fury in this romantic dance flick. Despite a winning cast and pulsating soundtrack, the movie hews too closely to convention and offers nothing that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. It shakes and spins largely on the charms of star Nick Frost, who turns out to be an ace romantic lead.
Frost plays Bruce Garrett, an erstwhile salsa dance champion who ended his career after school bullies shoved sequins down his throat. That would do it for just about anyone. Bruce is content to leave that episode of his life entirely in the past but changes his mind when his new boss, Julia (Rashida Jones), confesses her love for dancing. It doesn’t take long for the bejeweled satin shirts and brushed leather, one-and-a-half inch heel shoes to come flying out.
But it’s not just his past or a bout of serious nerves that he’s dealing with. Bruce must also contend with Drew (a deliciously hammy Chris O’Dowd), a slimy, cocky coworker who gives himself far more credit than he deserves, in every aspect of life. Drew takes every chance to belittle Bruce and steal the limelight, whether at a sales presentation or at bowling night. He isn’t below outright lying and theft either and steps up his tricks in order to win over Julia.
Almost everyone shines in his or her role. Frost wears his romantic leading man role well. Bruce is sweet and sympathetic without being too much of a pushover, and every insult he takes only spurs him on. O’Dowd, meanwhile, does a great job of losing any and all of his heartthrob bonafides as the smarmy foil to Bruce. Jones is less of a standout, appealing to be sure but fading as little more than the object of desire. The rest of the cast compensate though with over-the-top flair, not in an oppressive way but with energy and a sly wink that makes you want to cozy up next to them. Olivia Colman is Bruce’s supportive sister, Rory Kinnear is his suspicious golfing buddy, and Kayvan Novak is his talentless but cheerful classmate.
For all their efforts though, the cast can’t outperform the dry script. There are bursts of wit, but the return isn’t worth it. Even the dance sequences fail to sustain the excitement. The general tenor of the jokes leans towards sexual insecurity and traditional gender norms, particularly in regards to dance, and that’s just not very funny these days. Also, the story doesn’t do much to push the boundaries of the genre. Of course that may not have been the point, but that’s why Cuban Fury is a romantic comedy just like any other.
Prod: James Biddle, Nira Park
Dir: James Griffiths
Writer: Jon Brown
Cast: Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman, Ian McShane, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Alexandra Roach, Rory Kinnear, Kayvan Novak
Time: 98 min
Country: United Kingdom