'Cuban Fury': Big guy's got some moves
In the 1980s, when he was a young lad, Cuban Fury's Bruce heard the siren's call.
More likely, it was Gloria Estefan singing "The rhythm is gonna get you," and it did. He danced salsa with his sister Sam all over England. They won contests. He was a devil in Cuban heels and spangly pants called, yes, "Cuban Fury."
But then teenage bullying got the best of him, and "the fire in my heels, it just went out." His dance teacher (Ian McShane) was crushed.
Decades later, gravity and the British diet have caught up with him. Bruce (Nick Frost of Hot Fuzz and The World's End) doesn't dance and barely exercises. He works as an industrial machine designer at an engineering firm, is still bullied, and has only his drinking and golfing buddies, fellow losers, for comfort.
"Have you had any contact with a member of the opposite sex in which money does not change hands?" is their weekly query.
But there's a new single woman at work - his American boss (Parks and Recreation's Rashida Jones). She is approachable and ever so fine. If only Bruce could keep her out of the arms of the office lothario (Bridesmaids' Chris O'Dowd). If only Bruce weren't "a 2. She's a 10. . . . It's like a butterfly going out with a parsnip."
If only they had something in common.
Oh, but they do.
Cuban Fury is a quite funny, if entirely predictable, farce built around the sight gag of the portly Frost kicking up his heels on the dance floor. He is the latest in long line of graceful men of girth, a nimble comedic butterball. And this film is a giggle of a showcase for him, a silly romance that surrounds him with an over-the-top villain (O'Dowd), an over-the-top dance guru (McShane, born to wear tan in a can) and a quirky-cute and accessible love interest (Jones).
O'Dowd makes a wonderful creep, given all the lines a ladies' man would ever need to scare off the competition: "Women like that use guys like you to get advice about guys like me."
McShane's dance teacher, Ron Parfitt, runs a dance studio and salsa club long past salsa's expiration date (Dancing with the Stars brought it back). He wants to see Bruce back "in a pair of 11/2-inch heels." He wants him quoting Cuban crook Tony Montana from Scarface: "Say hello to my leetle friend!"
As juicy as his support is, it is Frost who totes this formula funny business across the finish line with sweaty skill and aplomb. We believe he can dance. We believe he's got to dance.
And thanks to him, we can even believe a parsnip has a shot with a butterfly. If only for 90 minutes.
Cuban Fury **1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by James Griffiths. With Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O'Dowd, Ian McShane. Distributed by Entertainment One.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 mins.
Parent's guide: R (language, sexual references).
Playing at: AMC Neshaminy, AMC Cherry Hill, AMC Hamilton, Regal Riverview.