There’s something vaguely embarrassing about the hip-swiveling salsa craze that infatuated gringos in the ’90s after suburban moms deemed the lambada too outré.
To Bruce (Nick Frost), it’s doubly shameful: Not only was he once a peacocking teenage dance prodigy, he quit after bullies forced him to eat his own sequins. Twenty-five years later, he’s resigned to mediocrity when his new boss, Julia (a charming-as-ever Rashida Jones), a salsa nut, makes his heart go heel-toe-spin.
Time to wax his chest, slick on fake tanner, and convince his dour former coach (Ian McShane) to resume their lessons. Frost can play lovable losers in his sleep, but to succeed, Cuban Fury has to make him dance. A fat man falling down gets a cheap laugh; a fat man with magic feet makes us cheer.
Director James Griffiths splits the difference between ridicule and respect, and the resulting comedy is as trite and cloying as a rum and coke. Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) perks things up as Bruce’s snide coworker who vies for Julia’s attentions, even undermining the premise of the film by asking, “You thought that the parsnip would win the butterfly by doing a bit of tiny shoe shuffle?” Actually, yes.
Cuban Fury does think a Nice Guy™ deserves to win the girl of his choice with a little sweat. Which means as progressive as it might feel for fat guys, losers, and salsa stalwarts, it’s rotten for women: Julia — who shows only chummy interest in both men — must still date one of them at the end.
Hey, let’s make this next dance a Sadie Hawkins.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 9, 2014