The following is my review of the new film Cuban Fury for ScreenPicks.com
In a world where British white preteens take up salsa dancing as a hobby, we meet Bruce Garrett. Bruce is obese and, for lack of a better word, kind of a loser. He rides a folding bike to his office job, and spends his nights consuming calories in front of the TV. But he manages to turn (at least some of) that around when he meets Julia.
The film focuses on Bruce relearning the Cuban steps of his childhood, after a humiliating incident caused him to turn away from the world of competitive dance. All with the goal of impressing Julia, our protagonist stubbornly confronts his old coach, convincing him to help him regain the moves and confidence he once had on the dance floor, with the help of his sister and a new friend he meets in class.
Portrayed by Nick Frost of Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy films, Bruce is a character we’ve all seen: He’s stuck in a rut, doesn’t stick up for himself, and had a traumatic experience as a child. We identify with him, because we’ve all been the underdog at one point in our lives. So of course, we want him to get the girl, no matter how unattainable it may seem.
Julia (Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation) enters Bruce’s life as his boss. I wish I could tell you what any of them do at this company, but all I took away from the office scenes is that Bruce does some kind of designing, and gives presentations with his obnoxious coworker, Drew (Chris O’Dowd, Bridesmaids). We’ve also all likely known a Drew – a bully whose only thoughts are about when he’s getting laid next. Drew has his sights set on Julia as well, if only so that he can shag her and rub it in Bruce’s face.
As the foul comic relief, O’Dowd hits the mark about 25 percent of the time – the rest he’s either very off color, or just plain stupid. Save for an excellent scene where Bruce and Drew engage in a West Side Story style dance-off for the girl, I was only mildly entertained, but mostly just annoyed at his character. However, O’ Dowd is a funny guy in general, so I’m chalking it up to my inability to see him as a scumbag. On the other hand, Bejan (Kayvan Novak, Channel 4’s Fonejacker) – Bruce’s Middle Eastern pal with a lot of sass and a proclivity for stale Fanta – was on point in every scene.
My real hope going into this movie was that I’d get to see some fun dancing and laugh at a lot of my favorite dry, British humor. Unfortunately, I was really only satisfied with the former. I’ll watch almost any movie that features dancing, and in that department I wasn’t disappointed once, from Step Up-like club scenes to the final salsa competition. And the supporting cast, which includes Peep Show’s Olivia Colman as Bruce’s sister Sam and Ian McShane (HBO’s Deadwood) as dance coach Ron, is lively, and delivers some of the humor I desired.
So could this comedy be called a love story? To be frank, I’d prefer to say it was the tale of a man’s love for dance. I’d even call it a love story between Bruce and his coach before I say that Bruce and Julia are meant to be. Because when all is said and done, Frost and Jones have zero chemistry. I rooted for Bruce in goal, because Frost portrays a slightly pathetic, but ultimately endearing character. But not once was I convinced that he should waste his time pining over a woman who had very little substance to her. I would, however, tune in for a sequel that pits Bruce and Bejan against each other in a competition.