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With: Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd, Ian McShane, Rashida Jones, Kayvan Novak, Olivia Colman
Written by: Jon Brown, based on an original idea by Nick Frost
Directed by: James Griffiths
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual references
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/11/2014

Cuban Fury (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fresh Salsa

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The thing about clichés is that, at some point, before they started appearing everywhere, they were once good and original ideas. There was a reason they caught on and became oversaturated. And the tricky thing is that, if done just right, these clichés can be put to work once again. Cuban Fury is one of the things that does it just right.

We've seen movies about dancing. We've seen romantic comedies about a poor, uncertain guy who finds himself and wins the girl. We've seen love triangles wherein the sweet guy almost loses to the cocky, arrogant guy, but doesn't. We've seen just about everything in Cuban Fury before, but we haven't seen it the way Nick Frost and company have done it, and it feels good. (Frost contributed the "original idea" but did not write the screenplay.)

Frost plays Bruce, an engineer who rides a fold-up bicycle to work, rather than driving a nice car. As a kid, Bruce and his sister were a champion salsa dancing team, until some bullies beat him up on the night of a big competition, and he quits. Now, his office gets a new supervisor, the pretty, funny American Julia (Rashida Jones), and Bruce immediately develops a little crush on her. Unfortunately his boorish, arrogant colleague Drew (Chris O'Dowd) begins making his moves on her.

Bruce discovers that she loves salsa dancing and, after reporting the news to his sister Sam (Olivia Colman), he decides to take it up again. He looks up his gruff his old teacher, Ron Parfitt (Ian McShane), who still carries a grudge against Bruce for quitting. In class, he meets the flamboyant Bejan (Kayvan Novak), who encourages him. Novak, by the way, gives one of those hilarious scene-stealing, star-making performances like the one Melissa McCarthy gave in Bridesmaids (2011). You will be hearing more from him.

In any case, you can see where all this is going. We get scenes of misunderstandings that lead to hurt feelings, before we come to the big climactic dance-off, as well as the boy and girl getting together and living happily ever after.

What really works in Cuban Fury is the selection of actors, all of whom are funny and lively. If not exactly like real-life characters, they at least seem to be occupying a space together, inventing, playing, and having fun with one another. The movie has a constant, buzzing energy, although a great portion of this comes from the hot music and from Frost's incredible dancing.

Frost reminded me of none other than John Belushi, another stocky guy that moved with mind-blowing athleticism and grace. When Frost cuts loose, there's a bit of a surprise watching this guy, who is not exactly svelte, dancing. But then the actual dancing itself kicks in, and his joy, pleasure, and passion come through clearly. It's almost more satisfying that it would be to watch chiseled, highly-trained people doing it.

In fact, Cuban Fury is probably the best date movie in some time, able to appeal equally to men and women, and leaving most feeling happy and goopy at the end.

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