No apologies from me today, but I guess I must explain my guilty pleasure. I am almost done with an especially busy semester, about to start correcting finals papers and tackling a thick stack of projects that need editing and polishing . . . So, who can blame me for adding a few light comedies to my “to see” list? Cuban Fury caught my eye (yes, first—the title) because it is always fascinating to see Caribbean stereotypes at work—a secret salsa fetish, Afro-Cuban rumba, smashing costumes by Rosa Dias, and “classic Latin cuts, notably by Tito Puente”—and because (I must admit) I am curious to see British comedic actors like Nick Frost performing in a salsa/rumba dance-off after donning his “Cuban heels.” Charles Gant (Variety) writes that “Frost never really convinces as a natural mover, and the film needs all the professional dancers it can muster to satisfy the potentially large Latin-dance-fan audience that may be snagged by grassroots marketing.” I will soon find out how this “salsa-inflected” romantic comedy used other exoticizing strategies to gain spectators (and I will probably have a much-needed, good laugh in the process).
Description: Nick Frost, the tubby sidekick to frequent onscreen partner Simon Pegg, sashays solo into the spotlight in the salsa-inflected British romantic comedy “Cuban Fury.” Big Talk, the production company behind all those Pegg-Frost pairings, hopes to advance its winning formula with an amiable tale of courage and redemption, featuring a lonely office drone daring to dream that his beautiful new boss (Rashida Jones) might rumba right into his arms. The local appeal of a cast that also includes Chris O’Dowd and Olivia Colman should see U.K. fans grooving to the pic’s tune, but overseas audiences may need some prodding onto the dance floor.
Bruce Garrett (Frost) was once a child Latin-dance star, but a traumatic bullying incident that occurred when he was 13, later referred to as “Sequingate,” saw him hang up his Cuban heels for good. Twenty-five years later, his only real passion is his job at GFD Engineering, a manufacturer of heavy machinery (“I LOVE MY LATHE,” announces his office coffee mug). A regular verbal punching bag for smug Alpha-male co-worker Drew (O’Dowd), he’s lost all confidence, at least when it comes to the opposite sex. Sympathy and encouragement arrive courtesy of his bartender sister, Sam (Colman), plus regular solace from his two best buds, the unhappily married Gary (Rory Kinnear, “Skyfall”) and the undateable Mickey (Tim Plester).
Not content with a single meet-cute, the screenplay by Jon Brown (various episodes of the youth-skewering Brit TV series “Misfits” and “Fresh Meat”) has Bruce literally collide with new sales chief Julia (Jones), then contrives to repeat the trick, with Julia knocking hapless Bruce off his bicycle. By this time he’s learned of her secret salsa fetish, and with Sam’s encouragement, he determines to rediscover the fleet feet of his early adolescence.
[. . .] While the odd comic setpiece is fairly inspired, notably a dance-off between Bruce and Drew on top of a parking structure, too many of the scenes are merely plodding, and a few more zingers would certainly not have gone amiss.
[. . .] Despite a reported many months of training, Frost never really convinces as a natural mover, and the film needs all the professional dancers it can muster to satisfy the potentially large Latin-dance-fan audience that may be snagged by grassroots marketing. Direction by feature debutant James Griffiths (TV’s “Episodes”) is determinedly non-attention-seeking.
With numerous scenes set in the dutifully dull offices of GFD, Frost’s homely apartment, pubs, dance classes, a golfing range and bowling alley, “Cuban Fury” hardly offers a cavalcade of eye candy, and it’s left to Rosa Dias’ costumes to do the visual heavy lifting. [. . .] A regular succession of classic Latin cuts, notably by Tito Puente, comes courtesy of Big Talk’s regular music supervisor Nick Angel and special music consultant Gilles Peterson, a renowned London-based jazz DJ and record label owner.
For full review, see http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/film-review-cuban-fury-1201111088/