Review: ‘Cuban Fury’ is all heart with Nick Frost in fine salsa form

Nick Frost in "Cuban Fury."
(Entertainment One Films)

Don’t let the cheesy title deter you. “Cuban Fury” is a thoroughly engaging crowd-pleaser — sweet, quite amusing and even a tad inspiring.

British funnyman Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) makes for an especially root-worthy hero as Bruce Garrett, an earnest lathe salesman who reconnects with an old love: salsa dancing.

Bruce may come off to friends and co-workers like a bit of a schlub; he’s a self-described 2 on the 1-to-10 scale. But beneath that pudgy exterior lies the heart of a champion salsa dancer, which in fact he was as a kid until a humiliating incident dubbed “Sequingate” caused Bruce to burn his dancing shoes (literally) and never look back.

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But now, 25 years later, Bruce discovers his beautiful new American boss, Julia (Rashida Jones, luminous), has her own salsa dancing fixation. To impress the kindly Julia, as well as to compete for her against an equally smitten, if unctuous and oily co-worker (a hilariously crass Chris O’Dowd), Bruce decides to get back his salsa-dancing mojo.

With the help of his barmaid sister and childhood salsa partner (Olivia Colman), his crabby old dance instructor (Ian McShane) and especially a chatty gay salsa enthusiast (a memorable Kayvan Novak), Bruce goes from underdog to top dog as he regains his confidence on the dance floor — and as a man. It all culminates in a colorful dance contest that, if inevitable and perhaps trickily edited, is also lively and enjoyable.

Writer Jon Brown and director James Griffiths, aided immeasurably by the game Frost (who’s also credited with the story idea), have crafted a lovable look at winners and losers and, to quote an often amusingly used word here, corazón (heart).


“Cuban Fury”

MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual references.

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

Playing: In select theaters.