I’ve never been a big fan of Nick Frost. I think he’s mildly amusing at best, painfully average at worst, but the premise of “Cuban Fury” seemed cute and charming enough, so I watched it one night, despite the fact that the movie got very average critical reception. Screw the critics! What do they know? Well, in the case of “Cuban Fury,” they hit it right on the head. The movie is, as promised, cliched, unexciting, and featuring rather flat characters who are more caricature than person.
That’s what bothers me. At the very least, shouldn’t caricatures be over-the-top and engagingly outrageous? Instead they are dull and lifeless. I like Chris O’Dowd, but his antagonist, Drew, spends so much time being ridiculously chauvinistic and nasty that he fails to be much of anything else. No redeeming features, no vulnerable moments, just pure ugly, misogynistic assholery. It makes you wonder why Bruce (Nick Frost) gives Drew the time of day, when Drew’s entire purpose in life is to steal Bruce’s love interest and make Bruce feel like a fat, unlovable loser.
Here’s the plot (it’s a dancing underdog story, but “Billy Elliot” it’s not)- As an adolescent, Bruce Garrett was one of the most promising Salsa dancers, but he was attacked and insulted by some boys on the night of a defining performance and, just like that, ceased to be a dancer. Years later, Bruce is a washed up office drone, shy and unsure of himself, when he meets the beautiful (and salsa-dancing!) Julia (Rashida Jones) and decides to take up the dance again to impress her.
Alas, here comes co-worker and resident dickhead Drew to serves as a foil to good-guy Bruce, simply because the movie apparently needs an antagonist. That said, he’s not a very good one. Drew’s main function is to say outrageously sexist and conceited things in Chris O’Dowd’s lovely Irish accent. There’s no real human dimension to the character, though on the other hand, he’s not really evil either. He’s pretty much just there, which might be enough for the undiscriminating viewer, but made me go “What the fuck? Really?”
On the other hand Nick Frost, who I’ve always found underwhelming, proves to be doubly underwhelming in a lame comedy (instead of say, the hilarious “Shaun of the Dead.”) “Cuban Fury” just doesn’t have that many laughs to its name. Equally infuriating is that they put the amazing actress Olivia Colman (“Tyrannosaur,” “Broadchurch”) in the film as a second thought as Bruce Garrett’s fucking advice-spouting bartender sister. Olivia deserves a main role, and if not that, at least a juicy slice of the screen time. Here she is given a dull role where she exists only to advise Bruce on how best to get the girl.
Rashida Jones is very cute and everything, but I don’t find her particularly compelling. That’s not to say she’s a bad actress, but she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen presence. And what’s with the scene where Bruce says something to Drew like “I may not be as good-looking as you, but at least I have heart?” Thank you, “Cuban Fury,” for stating the message behind the movie with absolutely no subtlety or nuance whatsoever.
The movie also stars Ian McShane and Kayvan Novak, who try their best to bring a little life into the flat proceedings. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with a not-so-winsome underdog and a big dancing contest that *GASP* could change everything for our hero. I guess the way I’m going on I sound like I hate this movie. I don’t. It’s utterly mediocre, which doesn’t warrant hatred; it warrants apathy, and apathy is the road I shall take. I don’t care about this uninspiring, unimpessive, unoriginal movie. And ultimately, neither should you.