When he was in his teens, Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) was a star in the salsa-dancing scene. After a attack from a gang of bullies ruined his career, Bruce turned his back on salsa. 25 years later, Bruce discovers that his boss Julia (Rashida Jones), who he has a crush on, is an avid salsa dancer, so he sets out to win back his feet of flame.
We know Nick Frost so well as Simon Pegg’s sidekick that it is odd to think of him doing a film without his partner in comedy, but the good news is that Frost capably carries Cuban Fury on his own. Of course it helps that he has Chris O’Dowd to help him out. Frost is endearing and warm as Bruce, a man who lost his confidence a long time ago. Frost immediately has the audience on his side, rooting for him to get his groove back, defeat the bully and get the girl. It’s a long, hard road, but Frost is so charming that we are with him on this journey.
Chris O’Dowd plays a less charismatic version of Ron Burgundy, who takes great pleasure in making himself look good by pushing others down. It is nice to see O’Dowd play the antagonist, as we are so used to him being the good guy, and it is obvious that the actor had a great time doing it, not least because he gets some great comic one liners. Rashida Jones plays a character very similar to Anne in Parks and Recreation; sweet and gentle, with a soft spot for the underdog. She doesn’t have a lot to do though, which is a little disappointing. Olivia Colman makes an appearance as Bruce’s crass but funny sister, and Ian McShane plays a character whose goodwill toward Bruce is hidden under a layer of gruff sarcasm.
The story, based on an idea by Nick Frost, is one we have seen a million times before; the underdog works hard and gets the girl, or saves the gym… Or whatever. Frost is funny and sweet enough to make a familiar story work and, even though the outcome is predictable, this is a journey we are more than happy to go on. That said, there is a rather silly sequence in a car park that does nothing for the story and is actually rather embarrassing.
Director James Griffiths graduates from TV shows, including the under rated Episodes, to take on a story of dance and confidence in Cuban Fury, and he manages just fine. There is very little here that is new or exciting – other than Frost carrying a film on his own, and dancing up a storm – but not every film has to be a Tarantino epic. Griffiths captures the humour and humanity of the film well, and it is this makes the story work.
Cuban Fury is a film that we have seen before in different guises, but Nick Frost excels in his first major leading role without Simon Pegg, and dances up a storm that has emotion and a big heart. Chris O’Dowd often steals the show as he office bully and Ian McShane brings the sinister; something he does incredibly well. Cuban Fury may not we-invent the underdog dance film, but it’s a journey with a lot of fun and some decent laughs along the way.