I laughed quite a lot during the Nick Frost lead Cuban Fury but in between the laughter was a somewhat meandering storyline, trying to be more than they needed to be.
Frost plays Bruce an everyday, simple man who has a passionate, salsa dancing loving past that he gave up after a rough encounter with bullies in his teens. After the arrival of his new boss, Julia (Rashida Jones) he’s inspired to put on his dancing shoes again but must overcome an obnoxious co-worker, Drew (Chris O’Dowd) an old teacher who wants nothing to do with him, Ron (Ian McShane) and his own crippling self-doubt.
With a stacked ensemble that also includes the criminally underused Olivia Coleman as Bruce’s sister Sam and the scene stealing Kayvan Novak, this film nearly avoids all pitfalls due primarily to their charm and gung-ho attitude to attacking the dialogue they’re given. Whenever they’re onscreen, you’re laughing-most of the actors involved are deft, seasoned comedians who know how to ring the comedic beats for what they’re worth all the while adding some depth to them.
The problem is they shouldn’t need to. The reasons why some of the best comedies work is because either the script is timed and written to a fault or the director has a strong enough vision to propel it along. Director James Griffiths seemingly had a difficult time honing any form of vision into his film. At times the movie seems only interested in the big laughs (something they succeed at) and at others it seems that Griffiths is also hoping for an emotional beat and wants his actors to play the storyline straight (something that isn’t as successful).
As I’ve mentioned, the acting and the characters are so infectious that it’s easy to ignore the sloppy characterization and plotting.
Nick Frost is an actor I always want to see more of. After having a career high in last years The Worlds End I’m ready to see him take on more characters of all wakes of life. He’s a natural screen presence, someone who can make you laugh while performing the most mundane acts. He’s allowed to utilized a rare physicality for this film as he dances and his rapport with O’Dowd, Jones and particularly, Coleman is pitch perfect.
After having played the affable, nice guy for so long it’s nice to see O’Dowd play the sleaze ball-he’s another actor who I can’t wait to see take on more parts with. He’s someone I’m predicting could have longevity to their career trajectory-and an interesting one. Jones isn’t given much to do being saddled with a thankless love interest only role. Coleman is good doing just about anything but it’s Novak-playing dangerously close to stereotypes-who runs away with just about every scene he’s in and getting all of the big laughs.
It was a nice movie experience and likely a film that should be watched in theaters so that as a viewer you can feed off of everyone else’s amusement. It’s a film though that people will undoubtedly forget about a few weeks after watching. The dance scenes were obviously intended to be the eye-catching moments of the film but the directing was so chaotic that it was difficult to keep your eyes on them at all with the multitude of aerial and rotation shots.
There was heart to this story and Frost sold it for all it was worth, it just wasn’t there in the way it was written. A stricter direction and a focused intent could have rid the film of any noticeable fault but instead it was left in the awkward middle ground of a move that jarringly switches it tones to fit the scene rather than having an established tone at the beginning of the film that eases itself into each situation the character finds themselves in naturally.
A simple, flawed and watchable movie, Cuban Fury hits theaters April 11th.