There are few more appalling cinematic crimes than a by the numbers comedy. They’re offensively inoffensive and direly mediocre, the kind of stuff a lazy screenwriter throws together over his lunch break. At least when you find yourself despising a film, it’s conjuring some sort of emotional response. And so it was that I sat through Cuban Fury – a film that I didn’t enjoy and that I didn’t hate. Instead, it was a film that I merely tolerated.
Nick Frost (a man primarily known as the other guy from all those Simon Pegg films) plays Bruce, a junior Salsa prodigy turned middle aged office drone. When Rashida Jones’ appealing new sales manager turns up, Bruce sets out on an inevitable quest to win her heart. It’s the classic comedy set up and pay off that’s pretty much farmed to death at this point. It would take a moron or someone flat out ignoring the film (I wouldn’t blame you) to not map out the entire arc of the plot in the opening 15 minutes.
The completely generic story attempts to redeem itself with a supposedly unique wrap around: it’s a comedy about Salsa dancing, or at least it claims to be. In practice, the only reason this construct is forced in is to try and cover for Cuban Fury‘s glaring lack of ambition. It doesn’t feel like someone wanted to make a film about Salsa, it’s just a throwaway romcom script that needed a quirky aspect. If you were to replace Salsa with say… ten pin bowling, it would be the exact same film. Whilst claiming to hold dancing at its core, the film always keeps it at an arm’s length (there’s no actual Salsa of consequence until the final scene, with the rest of the dancing shown in montage and short vignettes of Nick Frost stumbling).
While we’re on Frost, we all have to face that fact that no matter how likeable he is, he’s not a leading man. This almost feels like a role that was written for someone else – Pegg for example, whose blink-and-you-miss-it cameo is one of the few brief comic highlights. Frost does two things well, obnoxious and stupid. But Gareth is neither of these things, and the actor evidently spends much of the film struggling to find the comedy in a distinctly boring role.
Cuban Fury is a film of incredibly shallow characters. For instance, it is insisted that Frost and Jones belong together, but there is barely any onscreen interaction between the two, let-alone the kind worthy of star-crossed lovers. Much of this lazy plotting and non-existent characterization could have been forgiven were Cuban Fury funny, but it inevitably isn’t. The writing alternates between trying too hard or not hard enough to force a joke through, leaving huge barren patches of nothing in between the small handful of chuckle-worthy moments. When you’re pegged back to one laugh and a few titters over the entire runtime of something pertaining to be a “comedy,” you know that something’s gone awry, and the actors knew it as well.
Most of the cast deliver the laziest performances possible, particularly Jones, who seems less on auto-pilot and more stupefied by the comedic abyss swiftly opening up before her. How she – a genuinely well-known American actress – was convinced to sign on for the kind of common-denominator Brit-com tripe that is rightfully treated like the Plague by any agent west of Belfast, is beyond me. Her vacant and slightly horrified stare seems to suggest she’s constantly being held at gunpoint just out of shot.
Cuban Fury is a really dire affair. It’s a laughless comedy that lacks the smarts or guile to create anything of any worth whatsoever. It is the kind of movie you’ll have completely forgotten within days of watching it. By the end of the week you won’t remember its title and by the end of the month you’ll have forgotten it existed in the first place. Insipid, tame and oh-so-workmanlike, it might as well have never been made at all.
You can dress it up all you want, but there's no hiding the fact that Cuban Fury is as bland as they come.