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Review: Cuban Fury

In the ’80s, a young boy and his sister become a salsa-dancing sensation, winning award after award, under the guidance of Ron Parfait (Ian McShane). Shortly before the nationals, the boy encounters some bullies, who beat him up and force him to eat the sequins off his shirt. Then and there, he quits salsa dancing.

Fast forward to the present day, and Bruce (the boy, now played by Nick Frost) works for the manufacturer of some industrial machinery. His colleague, Drew, is an utter asshole towards him. They get a new boss, who is female, and both men become attracted to her. Bruce accidentally manages to spend some time with her informally, but is reluctant to pursue her.

Then he stumbles onto her taking salsa lessons. After years of absence, the spark comes back. He wants to dance again. He must repair some burned bridges, and dust off the cobwebs. He gets new friends, and things don’t necessarily go smoothly with old friends.

Welcome to Cuban Fury.

I really enjoyed this movie. I like Nick Frost, Ian McShane and Olivia Colman. McShane I used to watch in Lovejoy when it was on, and so have noticed and enjoyed him in other things. Babylon 5, The West Wing. I enjoyed the other actors in this, too.

I think this movie’s strengths are in the relationships between people, which aren’t static. And while Drew incredibly obnoxious, and somewhat entitled and mean, Bruce’s worst enemy might be himself rather than Drew (though Drew won’t lose that title without a fight). Bruce hinders himself with his low self-confidence and insecurity, choosing not to do things that would be really fulfilling to him, because of what people might think. McShane’s character really confronts him about this.

The movie is funny. I was watching this during the day in the busy living room, with one earphone in, having to pause on occasion to help the kids. In this sort of situation, or even watching something alone, I might be amused but quiet. There were several points where I was laughing out loud, sometimes the kids would ask what I was laughing at (Shhh! Not a kids’ movie!).

Had the movie been “Hahaha, look at the fat person dancing!”, it wouldn’t have been funny. There are some scenes with some obvious contrast between thin female dancers and Bruce dancing, and there’s kind of a mirror of jiggling going on. But the movie avoids the pitfall well, not turning mean or unsympathetic. Indeed, the movie sends some messages about Bruce’s appearance without the need for much dialogue:
1. Young Bruce isn’t thin, either. His build, therefore is more of an inherent trait (perhaps genetic), than a state he slides into.
2. Grown-up Bruce cycles to work, and isn’t always guzzling junk food, snacks, soft drinks and the like. He’s not the lazy glutton that is The Fat Stereotype. He might be fat, but his lifestyle isn’t blamed for it, and he’s not judged for it.
So it’s nice to have a break from more mainstream attitudes about weight.

There’s some swearing. I don’t think there was lots.

The basic rom-com structure is maintained, to me the steps forward and the setbacks didn’t feel contrived. “Why did it have to be salsa?” almost did, but squeaked by on seeming referencey.

I hadn’t heard of this movie, my sister-in-law borrowed it from the library. I said I’d take it back (which I did, hence squeezing in the watching today), but decided to watch it first. Glad I did.

Thumbs up from me.