Middle-aged Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost), a former teen salsa sensation who had star potential, is stuck living a routine life of missed opportunities and drudgery, made difficult by an arrogant coworker (Chris O’Dowd), until he meets Julia (Rashida Jones) his new boss at work. Having discovered Julia is a keen salsa dancer, Bruce tracks down his former salsa teacher and reignites his passion for dance and life in an attempt to win over Julia’s affections.
Directed by James Griffith, Cuban Fury is a guilty pleasure to watch. While the plot really is nothing special and may at times be over-used and unoriginal, for the most part Cuban Fury offers an entertaining twist on the dance movie genre. Whether this can be attributed to the fact Cuban Fury is a British production, and thus removes itself from the self-indulgent over-privileged culture so prevalent in the Hollywood dance film, or whether it’s because Frost makes an unlikely hero as Bruce, I’m not quite sure. Regardless, the end result is a romantic comedy to be indulged in private on a quiet Saturday night; go in knowing this film won’t stir your philosophical foundations and leave with a, albeit reluctant, goofy grin on your face. Cuban Fury is your typical feel-good film with minimum fuss and bother.
Nick Frost deserves props for his performance as Bruce, offering a strong commitment to the physicality of the role. A heavyweight in British comedy, Frost portrays Bruce with a sensibility and earnestness not often seen by Frost – his work with Simon Pegg certainly testament to this. Surprisingly, Frost really suits playing the leading man; Frost has a naturalness and charm about him that is a pleasant change from the underlying arrogance of leading men quite prevalent in film to date. Perhaps the reason Frost works so well as the romantic “hero” of Cuban Fury is because he is representative of the average, everyday man. He’s the quintessential underdog, the unassuming “nice” guy, and sometimes it’s nice to see an Average Joe transcend beyond the elusive “friend-zone” to win the heart of the gorgeous girl.
Interestingly, we see Chris O’Dowd begin to add variance to his character choices; his character of Drew moves away from the typical romantic lead O’Dowd has been portraying since his role in the 2011 film, Bridesmaids. In Cuban Fury, O’Dowd plays Drew, an arrogant womaniser, cocky of his abilities to woo and of his “right” as the more handsome and confident suitor to win Julia from underneath Bruce. In this role, O’Dowd has to work a lot harder to win the laughs from his audience; his propensity for humour, it seems, tends to be reliant on the unassuming and self-deprecating charm that seems to come naturally when playing the kind-hearted romantic lead. He’s still funny, but unfortunately I feel O’Dowd has already found his niche as the sensitive and goofy romantic lead, regardless of how limiting that may be.
Ultimately, Cuban Fury is your typical romantic comedy, with two parts comedy and one part romance. The Brits certainly know how to produce this genre of film with just the right balance of comedy to avoid the vomit-worthy sappiness prevalent in the romance genre. If you’re looking for a film that will give you a few laughs and leave you feeling good, Cuban Fury is the film for you.
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