‘Cuban Fury’: All the usual moves in Nick Frost’s salsa comedy
By BRUCE INGRAM For Sun-Times Media April 10, 2014 5:32PM
‘CUBAN FURY’ ★★1⁄2
Bruce Nick Frost
Julia Rashida Jones
Drew Chris O’Dowd
Ron Ian McShane
Entertainment One presents a film directed by James Griffiths and written by Jon Brown. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated R (for language and sexual references). Opens Friday at local theaters.
A little more fury might have been a whole lot better.
One of the most interesting things about Nick Frost (Simon Pegg’s sidekick in “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End”) as a comic actor is the suggestion that, deep down inside that amiable, plus-sized exterior, an out-of-control beast is just waiting for the chance to get crazy. Unfortunately, in the mild, strictly formulaic (not to be confused with “Strictly Ballroom”) dance romance “Cuban Fury,” Frost plays a repressed and apologetic type who more or less stays that way. And timidity doesn’t suit him.
Frost plays Bruce, a long-ago teenage salsa-dancing phenom who gave up on his dream after being humiliated by dance-phobic bullies. Twenty-five years later, he’s a fat man who rides a mini-bicycle, living a lonely life as a lovelorn industrial engineer. Should industrial engineers be offended by this? (Not to mention guys who happen to be named Bruce?) Absolutely. But never mind.
One day Bruce pedals to work and discovers that he has a lovely new boss named Julia (Rashida Jones of TV’s “Parks and Recreation”), who immediately replaces lathes as his No. 1 life interest. Especially when he learns that Julia, in addition to being attractive, kind and all-around lovable, is a closet salsa-dancing enthusiast. But is it too late for him to rekindle the old fire in his heels?
There are no surprises whatsoever in “Cuban Fury” from that point on, beginning with Bruce’s recruitment of his foul-tempered old dancing coach (Ian McShane, always a plus) and concluding with a semi-climactic Big Salsa Dancing Contest. We get a couple of decent laughs here and there, though, and a handful of charming moments — none of them having to do with Chris O’Dowd’s uncharacteristically loathsome turn as an office sleazoid competing for Julia’s affections.
It probably also won’t come as a great surprise that the dancing, with the exception of a dazzling display by Cuban fireball Yanet Fuentes, is ... uninspired. As a dancer, Frost is probably best described as unabashed, particularly when it comes to putting his chest region into play. But at least he’s a shaker, not a faker. That has to count for something.