The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cuban Fury

I loved Hot Fuzz, really liked Shaun of the Dead, and thought The World's End had its moments but could have been better. My favorite part of those three flicks from director Edgar Wright? That's one easy answer for this guy. I loved star Nick Frost, the lovable sidekick who's always ready with a quick one-liner or some nicely time physical humor. Push that sidekick stuff aside, it's starring role time! Here's 2014's Cuban Fury.

Growing up in England with his sister as his partner, young Bruce Garrett is a champion dancer on the salsa dance circuit. On the brink of winning the national championship, Bruce has quite a run-in with a group of bullies who beat him up and mock him mercilessly to the point he chooses not to dance at the championship. Years pass and Bruce (Frost), all grown up in his 30s, works at a manufacturing firm. He's single, overweight and feels like he doesn't have much in the way of prospects. Bruce has a new boss at the firm, a pretty American, Julia (Rashida Jones), and he can't figure out how to talk to her, how to break the ice. Well, there's one way. Bruce finds out Julia is into salsa dancing, but there's a problem. It's been 25 years since Bruce has danced so now it's time to find out if he can pick it up again. It ain't going to be easy, especially when a co-worker, Drew (Chris O'Dowd), also sets his sights on Julia.

If I had just read that plot description without seeing who was in the movie or having seen the trailer, this definitely isn't a movie I would have sought out. A former child dancer prodigy trying to impress his new sexy boss? Um, no, that sounds downright awful. I watched that trailer though. I looked at that cast, and yeah, I had to give this one a try. It looked a little dumb but mostly funny. End result? I loved it. I laughed out loud far more than I usually do with comedies. The laughs and comedy are there without being forced. Working off an original idea from Frost, director James Griffiths has a winner here. It's his first feature film after working on television and a TV movie and short, and it ain't perfect. But my goodness, I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I don't even remember it getting a theatrical release in the states, but this is one comedy definitely worth seeking out.

It starts with Nick Frost as our portly, very likable, and very funny Bruce Garrett. It was very cool to see Frost get a chance to star in a leading role. In supporting parts in the Wright films, he was an absolute scene-stealer. He does the same thing here, just on a bigger stage with more screentime. The main reason I like Frost as a comedian and as an actor is his versatility. He can rattle off a subtle one-liner in the same scene that he pulls off a physical stunt in the vein of Chris Farley or John Belushi, able to bounce back and forth effortlessly. Funny doesn't always translate to likable, but in Frost's case, it definitely does. An overweight 30-something trying to regain his former salsa flare? Yeah, that's just crazy enough to work.

The whole cast works in that sense. It's drawn with some broad strokes, but the cast is talented enough to make it work. Jones is cute and awkward as the boss and girl of Bruce's dreams while O'Dowd gets the showy jackass part as Drew, crude and lewd but quite the ladies man in general. What's the most out of left field name you can think of to play an aging salsa/dancer teacher? How about a legendary English actor with a gravelly voice and perfectly grizzled look? Ian McShane!!! It's a perfect, little supporting part with some great laughs. Also look for Olivia Colman as Bruce's sister, his biggest supporter and former dance partner, Rory Kinnear and Tim Plester as Gary and Mickey, Bruce's best friends who get together for some guy time, and in a great scene-stealing part, Kayvan Novak as Bejan, Bruce's flamboyantly gay friend who helps him get back onto the dancing scene.

I'm not going to overanalyze this one too much. I loved it. There's laughs sprinkled throughout the 98-minute flick, and if it's a tad predictable, I didn't care. It's rare I really enjoy recent comedies whether in theaters or on DVD, but this seems to be the rare exception. Likable, charming comedy with a great cast having a lot of fun and plenty of laughs. Also, look for a blink and you'll miss it appearance from Frost co-star and friend Simon Pegg. It's a good one, mixed in with a parking garage dance-off. Yes, you read that right. Just go with it.

Cuban Fury (2014): *** 1/2 /****

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