While Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are like two peas in a pod the pair have not always faired so well as leading-men. Pegg has found success as the loveable supporting character in big franchise fair such as Star Trek and Mission Impossible but his leading man credentials, outside of teaming with Frost, often leave a lot to be desired. Frost meanwhile probably doesn’t strike one as natural leading-man material but Cuban Fury is very much a Nick Frost film, in most of the best ways imaginable.
Former child salsa protégé Bruce (Frost) gave up on dancing when he was bullied as a kid. Now all grown up Bruce leads a quiet life, keeping his head down at work despite being harassed by his colleague Drew (Chris O’Dowd). But when new boss Julia (Rashida Jones) takes Bruce’s fancy he soon learns that, shock horror; she salsas. Calling on the help of his sister Sam (Olivia Colman) and former coach Ron (Ian McShane) Bruce must find his dancing feet again in order to win Julia’s affections, or at the very least prove there is more to him than Drew would like to believe.
Cuban Fury is a true underdog story, a British Dodgeball if you like with dance standing in for big red balls. It’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny but, thanks mainly to Frost’s presence, it is an always likeable little jaunt.
The title is misleading; there is little resembling Fury on offer. Bruce never unleashes his sequined Hulk despite a fairly amusing ‘dance-off’ with Drew in the work car park. Instead he’s more sullen than that, the nice guy trying to get the girl vs. the office jerk trying to sleep with her. It’s fairly broad stuff but it manages to bring with it a warm cuteness that keeps you smiling.
Colman, always brilliant in her comedic roles, is wonderfully foul-mouthed and entertaining. She’s the kind of girl that if you had to have a sister you’d want her to be like Colman’s Sam. O’Dowd is clearly enjoying playing the alpha-male having been the geek for so long in The IT Crowd. Jones is typically luminous, lighting up her scenes with that melting smile. Like Rose Byrne, Jones is one of current comedies unsung leading ladies. But the film works thanks to Frost. Admittedly the whole premise of Cuban Fury revolves around a chubby guy doing a dance but in Frost’s hands it works, and works well for what it’s setting out to do. It’s hard not to sympathise with Bruce, he’s the kind of guy you just want to give a big hug to and for that reason Cuban Fury keeps an emotional investment throughout.
Never quite as funny as perhaps it thinks it is, Cuban Fury manages to lead you on a gentle waltz rather than sweeping you off your feet.