There is much to like in the comedic and charming “Cuban Fury.” Although no one can accuse the filmmakers of reinventing the movie wheel, it’s nice every once in a while to just sit back and be charmed by the cast, in this case the very funny and likable leads, Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, and Ian McShane. (Yes, “Deadwood”’s Al Swearengen plays a hysterically against type dancing coach.)
The film opens in 1987 – teenager Bruce Garrett and his sister are poised to win the UK Junior Salsa Championship. But on the night of the championships, a bullying episode cause Bruce to drop out, disappointing his sister, Sam and his coach, Ron Parfitt (McShane).
Cutting to 25 years later, Bruce (Frost) is an overweight office worker, who is sweet but lonely. He’s constantly made fun of (to the point of adult bullying) by his colleague, Drew (O’Dowd), but Bruce has learned to shrug off such shenanigans. He has a couple of friends with which to hit the pub and golf balls, and maybe that’s enough.
That is until the lovely new boss arrives, the American Julia (Jones). It’s longing (or perhaps even love) at first sight for Bruce. But unfortunately, conventionally better looking Drew lusts after Julia and seemingly has all the right moves. But then Bruce discovers that Julia loves Salsa dancing!
So in a spirited series of events, and with the support of Sam (Colman), Coach Ron and amateur dancer, Bejan (Novak), Bruce tries to regains all the right moves.
The wonderful Nick Frost explains in his film’s production notes that he sent the idea of this film to producer Nira Park as a drunken email. “It was half past 2. I’d kept the idea hidden for about three years, but I was a bit tipsy one night and thought ‘f**k it’.”
And the content of Frost's email? “How would you feel if I said we should do a film where I DANCE A LOT. Imagine me in tightly fitted sequined garments with a lot of slow-mo.”
And Park’s reply? “That’s one poster I want to see.” So two years, later, with writer Jon Brown adapting Frost’s idea and with director James Griffiths at the reigns, “Cuban Fury” became a realization.
In addition to the comedic hijinks, what’s special is that the film doesn’t make fun of the dance genre. Frost and Park insisted on treating dancing with respect. “The dancing had to be real,” says Frost. “We’d be lynched if we did a parody of it, and it got into my heart, too.” Thus, the filmmakers smartly hired “Strictly Come Dancing’s” salsa choreographer, Richard Marcel and top dance trainer, Susana Montero (who also plays dancer, Gloria, in the film).
The producers of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” definitely concocted the right mix of music, dance and naughty comedy for “Cuban Fury.” Sometimes drunken emails, humor and dance really do form enjoyable outings.