Monday, 14 July 2014

Cuban Fury (2014)

It's an age old story. Boy loves salsa dancing. He excels at it. He is then bullied on the way to a major competition and falls out of love with salsa dancing. He grows up to be a man without fire in his belly (Bruce, played by Nick Frost), but finds his passion reignited when he falls for a woman (Julia, played by Rashida Jones) who, yep, enjoys a bit of salsa dancing. That leads him to finding his old salsa dance instructor (Ian McShane), and also pits him against a repugnant colleague (Chris O'Dowd) who has also taken a shine to the lovely Julia.

Okay, maybe it's not quite the same old story that we've seen/heard so many times before, but the structure of this film is obvious and predictable. Yet, it's also none the worse for it. This is absolutely wonderful, crowd-pleasing stuff. The predictability of the plotting makes it as comfortable as the favourite sweater that you look forward to wearing whenever the temperature starts to drop, and the script and performances provide some big laughs.

Nick Frost is a very likable lead, Jones is an entirely believable object of affection, and O'Dowd has a lot of fun as the asshole making everything more difficult for the main character. McShane is wonderful as the gruff, grouchy dance instructor who resents Bruce for what he threw away in his youth, but the supporting cast also includes some fun turns from Rory Kinnear, Olivia Colman, and, especially, Kayvan Novak.

The script by Jon Brown is full of great lines, with one of the first comments made by O'Dowd about the loveliness of Jones actually making me howl with laughter for a good while, thanks to the unexpected crudity and inventiveness of it. And it wasn't the only bit of dialogue to make me laugh aloud. You might think that's the minimum requirement for a decent comedy, and you'd be right, but it's also increasingly rare to watch something that hits the funny bone so precisely throughout, especially a romantic comedy. James Griffiths doesn't have to work too hard in the role of director, or so it would seem, but he puts everything together well and certainly helps to make the most of the expected touchstones (the montage moment, the inevitable dance-off, the grand finale, etc.).

The other big plus point for the movie is that everyone, to a certain degree, sells it so well. I'm well aware that a mix of techniques will have been used to achieve the desired final effect, but there are plenty of moments that show how nimble on his feet Nick Frost can be. The same goes for Jones, Wilde, and O'Dowd. Considering the fact that the whole movie is focused on salsa dancing,  everyone looking as if they CAN actually salsa dance makes it easier to enjoy the whole thing as it spins and twirls you to a satisfying conclusion.

Don't rush to see Cuban Fury when you want to see something challenging and/or unique. But definitely give it a go if you fancy keeping a smile on your face for just over 90 minutes.


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