Deborah Rosan and Nick Frost. Picture: Matthew Nettheim

Imagine frumpy British funnyman Nick Frost as a salsa dancer and you probably picture a dancing bear, a bull in a china shop or Homer Simpson stumbling home after another bender.

But the physical comedy that comes from seeing a short fat man prancing and dancing is just part of this winsome, gently enjoyable comedy. There's romance, redemption, male rivalry and alternately furious and funny dance-offs. And there's the jolly giant sashaying solo - sans his comedy cohorts Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright - with surprising skill, dexterity and panache.

It's like a British Strictly Ballroom or Dirty Dancing and what it lacks in originality or narrative smarts it makes up for with daffy charm, hot salsa and hundreds (and thousands) of sequins.

Those sequins mostly belong to Bruce Garrett (Frost), a single, middle-aged, bumbling office dweeb. He was a champion salsa dancer as a child until an unfortunate bullying incident - which he dubs "sequingate" - saw him hang up his dancing shoes.

His love for salsa is reignited, however, when he spies his sexy new boss (Rashida Jones) taking salsa classes. Hoping he can rumba his way into her heart, he slips back into that sequined shirt. Only now he must compete for her affections with his male- chauvinist office rival (Chris O'Dowd).

Frost co-wrote and co-produced this semi-biographical comedy because he's always loved dancing but was too scared to do it. After a drunken confession to his producer, he decided to do it in a movie and spent six months training to pull it off. His hard work shows in the many amusing dance sequences, from twirling up a storm in his tiny apartment to a rooftop carpark dance-off with O'Dowd that includes a killer cameo from Pegg.

While Frost is lighter on his feet than you'd expect, he also taps into male middle-aged malaise with that hangdog face and social awkwardness until he rediscovers his spark. It's something many middle-aged men may relate to. Frost's co-stars all get into the swing of it, too, even if they are underwritten characters that come and go in the film.

Jones is a pure joy as the smart, sexy object of his gentlemanly affections. O'Dowd (The Sapphires, Bridesmaids) is a riot - and all but steals the film - as his inappropriate alpha male rival. And Ian McShane (Deadwood) adds gravitas as Frost's hot-blooded Latin instructor.

But for such a heavyweight dancer, Frost's Cuban Fury is all pretty lightweight, from its well-worn tale of redemption to its sexy salsa dance-off competition finale.

The daggy costumes, Latin-flavoured music (mostly by Tito Puente) and various dance sequences add to the film's easy, undemanding, enjoyable shuffle.

And that's okay. Cuban Fury isn't going to win any awards but there's nothing objectionable about it either.

It's a harmlessly lightweight shimmy, and will make a sweet date movie with your dance partner.


The West Australian

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