This movie will dance its way into your heart … or something like that.
There’s a type of comedy movie called the star vehicle. It’s an old fashioned concept, but basically, it’s when you take a funny person and write a movie around him that plays to his strengths as a comic actor. That’s what Cuban Fury is. It’s a chance for Nick Frost to do Nick Frost things with a strong supporting cast, and as this sort of film, it absolutely works.
Nick Frost plays Bruce, a salsa dancing child prodigy who has a traumatic incident on his way to compete in the national salsa championships, and gives up salsa dancing forever. This is until he meets his new boss (Rashida Jones), falls for her, and then finds out she salsa dances. Will Bruce learn how to become a salsa dancer again, while at the same time recovering the confidence he’s lost through years of neglecting his talents? What do you think?
What makes this movie work — what truly makes any movie of this type hit or miss — is the assortment of supporting characters. Here, we have fun, scene-stealing peformances by Chris O’Dowd as his womanizing rival, Ian McShane as his cranky, druken old salsa teacher, and especially Kayvan Novak as a flamboyant salsa student who befriends Bruce, and helps him break out of his shell. All of these supporting roles go over the border into stereotype, but never into overwhelming territory. Less effective is the lead performance by Rashida Jones. She’s the American woman inside this comedy of British people, and she feels really out of place. She’s no Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, that’s for sure.
The big question in this movie is “how’s the dancing?” The salsa dancing manages to be entertaining both in its quality and how ridiculous it is. The film needs to walk the fine line between appreciating its subject and making fun of it, and it does this deftly. You may feel the urge to go out and learn how to salsa after seeing this, but the hardcore salsa moves seen on screen here don’t look like anything I’ve seen at Cigar Bar on a Saturday night. Maybe competitive salsa is as violent as this; maybe it’s just slapstick.
I’m glad to see Nick Frost getting the chance to carry a film, and he’s both funny and charming here, and if you enjoy his work in the films of Edgar Wright, you should definitely give him a chance here. Cuban Fury is not going to be an awards contender, though you’ll probably smile your way through it.
Cuban Fury opens nationwide today.