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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Cuban Fury review: so he thinks he can dance

Cuban Fury yellow light Nick Frost Chris O'Dowd

The cast is game, and hit the right notes balancing cartoonishness and charm. As sitcom rom-coms go, it’s far from the worst one ever offered to us.
I’m “biast” (pro): I am amused by Nick Frost

I’m “biast” (con): the premise didn’t thrill me

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The best thing about the halfhearted, old-hat Cuban Fury is its tagline: “Real men dance.” Of course they do, and I like the implication that we’re going to see some tired stereotypes get smacked. And we get a bit of that, for the second best thing in Cuban Fury is the dance fight between Nick Frost’s schlubby engineer and his appalling jerk of a coworker, played by Chris O’Dowd — it’s funny not for any suggestion that they, as men, shouldn’t be dancing, but because each character is so committed to one-upping the other as a dancer. It’s still macho bullshit, but at least it’s being expressed creatively (literally and figuratively). Alas, the thing they’re fighting over is, inexcusably yet predictably, a woman. Worse, she’s their new boss, Julia (Rashida Jones: The Big Year), which, Jesus, guys: no. Of course, as an unrepentant, outspoken sexist pig, O’Dowd’s (Thor: The Dark World) Drew has no chance (though of course, he believes just the opposite), and it’s a foregone conclusion from the moment he meets her that Frost’s (The World’s End) Bruce will end up with her. For even though he is shy, lacks all confidence, and declares her “way out of [his] league,” that’s how these movies work. Apparently pop culture has yet to supply ordinary guys with the confidence they need to believe that they deserve and can win absolutely any woman they desire (even as it completely fails to tell ordinary women the same) and so more reinforcement was required. Still, there is some small, ridiculous appeal here, as Bruce returns to ballroom salsa dancing — at which he was a champion as a teen until a beating by bullies made him turn from it — because he discovers that Julia is interested in it. The cast is game, and hit the right notes balancing cartoonishness and charm, particularly Ian McShane (Jack the Giant Slayer) as Bruce’s gruff former salsa teacher, Olivia Colman (I Give It a Year) as Bruce’s sister and teen dance partner, and Kayvan Novak (Doctor Who) as a new friend to Bruce who offers him some advice on how to present himself with a little more pizzazz; even O’Dowd’s jerk is so outrageous a caricature that it’s impossible to be genuinely offended by him. As sitcom rom-coms go, it’s far from the worst one ever offered to us.

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Cuban Fury (2014)
US/Can release: Apr 11 2014
UK/Ire release: Feb 14 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated SOOHL for graphic depictions of “she’s out of his league”
MPAA: rated R for language and sexual references
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language and sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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