A genuinely pleasant surprise, the U.K. romantic comedy Cuban Fury
is one of those imports that surfaces theatrically in a few major U.S. markets, then quietly rotates into the DVD/digital marketplace, where it can be properly enjoyed.
The always amiable Nick Frost stars as Bruce Garrett, a former teenage salsa-dancing champion who lost his nerve and now lives the life of a sad-sack office bloke. His passion is rekindled, however, when he meets his new American boss Julia (Rashida Jones), who's way out of his league but—wouldn't you know it—also a salsa enthusiast.
The basic gag is in the casting. Frost has made a franchise of funny films with comic partner Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead
, Hot Fuzz, The World's End
), and his schlubby persona works as a funny disconnect here—this guy was a salsa champ? Jones radiates her usual intelligent likeability and proves once again to be an ace ensemble comic.
Chris O'Dowd is the real surprise, inverting his nice-guy image to play a lecherous office bully who tries to steal Julia away. O'Dowd and Frost have a nice antagonistic chemistry together. Ian McShane also pops in as Bruce's hard-case dancing mentor.
The rhythms are all standard-issue rom-com, and the plotting is pure formula. But the fun is in the clever dialogue, delivered in that slightly off fashion that always seems to make British comedies a little more deft. Jokes veer into unexpected territories—about Marty McFly, say, or the virtues of distilled orange Fanta.
Each scene has a comic payoff, delivered with skill by professional funny people clearly having a good time. That kind of spirited vibe tends to shine through in comedies, and the bonus materials on the DVD/Blu-ray edition support the idea of it being a happy set during the making of the film. Also, watch for a very brief cameo from Frost's old mate Pegg.
Of course, you need good dancing scenes for a movie like this and director James Griffiths delivers the goods. By employing a blown-out color palette, great music and some precise editing, Griffiths makes Frost and Jones look like actual salsa champs in the film's mandatory dance competition finale.
a terrible title, by the way—never rises to the level of truly inspired comedy, but it's a nice departure from recent American rom-coms, which tend toward hard-R sex jokes and exhausting raunchiness. Blame Judd Apatow. I do.
: The DVD/Blu-ray retail edition features a half-dozen behind-the-scenes items focusing mostly on the salsa dancing. Frost did a good deal of training for the role, and it's interesting to see how his work paid off when it came to editing the salsa sequences.
Also New This Week:
Notable New Titles This Month on Netflix:
- The sprawling documentary Watermark examines mankind's relationship to water—from the Hoover Dam to the Ganges to the Greenland ice sheet—with groundbreaking high-definition images.
- The YA sci-fi sensation Divergent stars Shailene Woodley in a grim future vision of social engineering gone bad. As science fiction, Divergent is less interested in future tech and more interested in speculation on sociology and anthropology. And teenagers.
- Russell Crowe prepares for flooding in the Biblical epic Noah.
The Killing: Season 4
Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2