My son had to go to his dad’s for the weekend so I watched five movies yesterday and passed out during the sixth from drinking too many white wine spritzers. I thought I had a lot to say about the one I actually left the house for, Fantastic Beasts, but it’s very difficult to discuss a new movie because of fears of spoilering. I did fall in love with Dan Fogler during the proceedings, and I want to go live in that Narnia suitcase, but that Scooby Doo twist took me right out of the movie, and the metaphors were a bit heavy handed. Anyway, out of all the movies I watched during my all-day escapist mental vacation it’s Cuban Fury that I keep thinking about, so let’s talk about that. My manager should be pleased that I wrote about a comedy when he gets home tomorrow.
Actually, let’s talk about escapism for a moment. The things I escape to ARE the real world, as far as I’m concerned. All we have is our perception of things, and with the imagination you can literally go anywhere. I just simply refuse to believe that the DMV and Wal-Mart are the really real reality. Dreams and meditation, as well as art (including film, TV, and gaming) are the reason to live, not the escape from life.
And that brings me to Cuban Fury, sort of. Now, I watch The IT Crowd on a loop. I mean, I must go through the whole series at least once a week, and I’ve been doing it for at least two years. I’d been meaning to check out Cuban Fury for a while, and I knew there were a couple of actors in it that I liked a lot but I couldn’t quite remember who. Turns out it was Roy from the IT Crowd and Olivia Colman of many Mitchell and Webb collaborations. I’ve seen That Mitchell and Webb Look probably as many times as IT Crowd. Like, I’d be embarrassed if anyone found out how much I watch them, if I wasn’t telling you this myself. And when the algorithms at Netlifx and Hulu do become self-aware (I watch it on both apps, depending on which company I’m happier with on a given day) they’re going to wonder why I’m paying $24 a month to watch the same show over and over. Another show I’m obsessed with is Lovejoy, so I was pleased to see that Ian McShane is in this too.
Unfortunately, what I keep thinking about is the missed potential of Cuban Fury. The love story between Rashida Jones and Nick Frost just seems silly, not because he’s fat, but because it comes out of nowhere, and she’s his boss. She shows up at work, and for no reason other than that she’s attractive Nick Frost falls madly in love and has to take up the salsa dancing hobby he’d abandoned in his teens after a bullying incident. There’s no sexual tension either, and that’s really what makes a romantic comedy work, as awkward as that is to say. You sort of have to believe that these two people are just dying to do it. I’m not that familiar with Jones’s work, but here she acts like she’d be more at home with the whole Paul Feig too cool American school of comedy. British comedy demands a little more heart than what Hollywood puts out, in my opinion, and she didn’t give it to us here.
Olivia Colman is kind of wasted as the bartender/sister dispensing advice, and Chris O’Dowd is just so filthy as the romantic rival that it gave me a little fright. And he’s not even the one who plays the IT Crowd character that I have a crush on; that would be the beautiful Richard Ayoade! But “Roy,” although not O’Dowd himself, feels like an old friend to me, so it’s hard to watch a guy wearing his face being such a pig. A similar but not quite as gross character works better in Christopher Guest’s Mascots, so maybe he’s just playing nasty oversexed dudes now.
I suspect the whole movie may be a parody of the dancin’ rom com, due to scenes like McShane’s dance teacher character somehow instructing Frost by playing board games and drinking shots with him. It brought this down to the level of a Blades of Glory or a Dodgeball, “hey let’s watch dorks pretend to be passionate about a weird sport” instead of letting it be the sweet “underdog finds love” romance it could have been. That and the lukewarm love triangle could mean this whole exercise is just an excuse to have a good old stare at a fat dude dancing. Which, by the way, is unsatisfying in itself because of the way this is filmed with so many cuts that you wonder how much dancing the leads actually did. That question has been bothering me more than anything, but the only person I can find a body double credited for is Frost, and I’m hoping that’s just for the scene where he does a flip off the top of a car.
Speaking of which, the dance-off in the parking deck between O’Dowd and Frost was worth a watch, and the flamboyant friend played by Kayvan Novak seems like a nice nod to Frost’s own reported gay following, which I have read that he appreciates and embraces. The man’s an icon for the bear loving community, evidently. But sadly, I’d rather just go watch Strictly Ballroom again than sit through this. Netflix’s robots should be expecting me to log in and do that any old time now.