See this wonderful movie while you canSection 4A, Movie Review Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Among the United Kingdom’s greatest exports – including Downton Abbey, Cadbury Eggs and the Magna Carta – is the underdog feel-good comedy. Where would world culture be without The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Little Voice and Bend it Like Beckham? In a terrible place, I reckon. (This is as long as you don’t think about the actual politics of the films, which are very American, in that the films actually reify class structures by showing that only truly exceptional people and circumstances justify class-crossing.) Many of these films usually come to the United States with a Weinstein imprimatur and, despite being one of the more enjoyable of this genre in recent years this month’s Cuban Fury is coming in without such a distributor. Without a wide release, it may not last long. See this wonderful movie while you can.
Nick Frost plays Bruce, a chunky Brit with a job in middle management and no one who loves him but his bartender sister Sam (Olivia Colman). As a teen, he had been something else: a confident champion salsa dancer. On his way to a major dance championship, he was beaten by homophobic bullies and never danced again, much to the chagrin of his touch-talking coach, Ron (delightfully type-cast Ian McShane). Everything changes when a new boss arrives. Julia (Rashida Jones) is both dorky and stunning, and immediately, both Bruce and his frenemy Drew (Chris O’Dowd) set their skeevy eyes on Julia. Even though Drew is clearly a cad, he has the confidence Bruce lacks.
When Bruce discovers that Julia loves salsa, some sort of fire lights inside him and he decides to make a change. He actually has a chance, if he can get his chunky body into those tight shoes and move across the dance floor like he had twenty years before. He finds his hard-drinking old coach and starts taking his dance lessons, where he meets the outrageous Bejan (Kayvan Novak), who is my favorite stereotypically gay sidekick of 2014. One thing leads to another, and along the way, there’s a purloined letter, some Three’s Company slapstick and an epic dance battle between Bruce and Drew. These movies all end the same way, which is comforting.
Cuban Fury was Nick Frost’s idea and written by Jon Brown, whose screenplay is structurally clichéd but full of hilariously ribald lines, the dirtiest coming from Drew and the most queer from Bejan. Directed by James Griffiths, who has helmed many episodes of Episodes, one of the best comedies on American television, the script crackles, not partly because the lines are delivered by actors less cast for their fame than for their skills.
I hope the film will be a starmaker for the everyman Frost, a British comedy mainstay who is little known to American audiences other than as the guy who isn’t Simon Pegg in Edgar Wright movies like Shaun of the Dead and This is the End. Chris O’Dowd, who played the Scottish cop in Bridesmaids, doesn’t need the publicity, but in Cuban Fury, he shows just how slimy his comedy can be.
Rashida Jones, who has just left Parks and Recreation, does the humbly daffy dream girl thing very well, and I assume (and hope) she is being positioned as a leading lady in romantic comedies. I believe she can do a great deal more than that, though she does that kind of acting better than most of the women getting paid $15 million a film for it.
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