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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
  • Movie review: Nick Frost shines in ‘Cuban Fury’

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  • Roly-poly actor Nick Frost doesn’t have the physique of a dance champion, but if you can buy him as a nimble salsa-dancing dynamo in the high-concept romantic comedy “Cuban Fury,” then you’re in for a treat.
    Frost, a longtime ensemble player from Simon Pegg’s “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” sashays into his first star-turn as Bruce Garrett, a portly pushover suddenly inspired to get his groove back when he meets a beautiful girl who’s a “10” to his “2.”
    When we catch up with Bruce, he’s grunting while eating a four-pack of pudding cups. It’s learned via flashback that Bruce was a former teen salsa king who abruptly hung up his dancing shoes after a bullying incident infamously called “Sequin-gate.” Fast-forward 25 years and Bruce is now a lovesick engineer still scarred by his past.
    When he learns the girl (Rashida Jones from TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) he worships digs salsa, Bruce decides the only way he can woo her is with his feet. First, though, he needs to brush up. Fish-out-of-water comedy ensues, as Bruce reignites the “fire in his heels,” enlisting his temperamental old dance guru (a pitch-perfect Ian McShane) for help. Also lending support is British funny woman Olivia Colman, as his sister and dance partner.
    James Griffiths, making his feature directorial debut, and screenwriter Jon Brown don’t exactly reinvent the rom-com genre, relying on such tropes as the gay BFF, a makeover montage and a Greek chorus of friends, to name a few. While the action may be predictable, the salsa is spicy and the laughs are plentiful, including the physical comedy that goes along with Frost’s girth.
    He’s an unlikely leading man but pulls it off beautifully abetted by Jones, Colman, McShane, Chris O’Dowd and Kayvan Novak. Especially humorous is the climatic parking garage dance-off between Bruce and frenemy Drew, played by a movie-stealing O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”). He’s over the top as the office womanizer who unfairly prevents Bruce from scoring the affections of Julia (Jones). “Women like that use guys like you to get advice about guys like me,” he warns Bruce.
    Frost comes off as a British Kevin James type – an underdog with sweetness and depth who, despite a familiar story, dances his way right into your heart.
    Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbu to@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @danabarbuto.
    CUBAN FURY (R for language and sexual references). Cast: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Ian McShane. Grade: B

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