(A “No Spoilers” Review!) by Christopher Taylor
“Cuban Fury” is a deceptively simple romantic-comedy. Some reviewers have called it old-fashioned, but simple is not the same as simplistic and “Cuban Fury” works extremely well on multiple levels.
At first glance, we immediately recognize the time-tested story elements of a humble hero meeting a seemingly unattainable beauty, far above his station in life. Smitten, our hero must not only out-wit evil suitors for her hand, but must also undergo a hero’s internal journey. He must find his own unique inner strength and talent. Only when the hero has fully accepted his own best self can he vanquish the dragon, kill the villain, or win the maiden’s hand in love. In this modern British version of the classic tale, our hero Bruce (Nick Frost) must reconnect with his boyhood passion for dancing salsa to win the heart of Julia (Rashida Jones).
Following in the footsteps of previous hits (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), Big Talk Productions delivers a fast-paced, light-hearted and witty film. Refreshingly not of the Hollywood cookie-cutter mold, the script’s humor runs the gamut from lightning-fast and clever, to crude and misogynistic (from the detestable Drew, brilliantly played by Chris O’Dowd). Physical comedy is treacherously difficult to do well, but the cast makes it look easy — from a broadly funny dancing duel between Bruce and Drew, to sly subtle moments throughout. Watch how Bruce eats his yogurt! The British are so good at this sort of thing.
Looking more deeply, the film explores some timeless life challenges. As Bruce evolves and begins to reconnect with his true self, some of the greatest resistance he experiences comes from his own friends. Family and friends often want us to stay the same old comfortable, familiar person they think they know, instead of supporting us into new territory as we fulfill our own potential — spiritually, artistically, or perhaps in a new career path. I believe that as children, we often know our true passions. Then we spend of the rest of our lives trying to rediscover our true selves having gotten lost somewhere in the midst of life’s endless adult responsibilities. Bruce says that he wants to feel like “himself” again. As do we all!
I love how the script playfully weaves in various elements from the 1980’s, when as a boy, Bruce was much closer to his true self. Pursuing his passion for dancing salsa, Bruce was confident, having fun, and winning every salsa dancing competition in sight. Echoes of his glory days appear in characters frequently using cassette tapes, and in references to the old TV animated show “Thundercats,” along with the 1980’s films “Back to the Future,” and “The Goonies.”
“Cuban Fury” has a freewheeling joyful quality, and steers clear of the standard cynicism which is common in many of today’s films. I also liked that the actors actually look like real people, as opposed to a collection of fashion models. How refreshing!
Bottom Line: Go, see it!
Run time for “Cuban Fury” is 98 minutes. Rated R for language and sexual references.