Nick Frost usually comes as one-half of a package deal. With Simon Pegg (and their behind-the-scenes collaborator Edgar Wright), Frost has starred in three of the most gloriously subversive, smart and silly British comedies of the past ten years: Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End. Can he hold the screen and get the laughs when he's headlining a film, with neither Pegg nor Wright in sight? The answer is, thankfully, yes. Cuban Fury is a great vehicle for Frost - he grounds the fun, loopy, cheerful dance comedy in something a little more real and affecting, even if the film doesn't quite hit the brilliant heights of the aforementioned Cornetto Trilogy.
After being bullied mercilessly by a pack of boys as a child, Bruce (Frost) swears off the one thing he's really good at: salsa dancing. Fast forward a few decades, and he's a bored, boring office drone forced to suffer the company of Drew (Chris O'Dowd), his lewdest, rudest, meanest colleague. When he meets his new, gorgeous boss Julia (Rashida Jones), however, Bruce feels compelled to step out of his comfort zone - especially when he realises that she loves salsa dancing too. Even as Drew tries to worm his way into Julia's affections, Bruce resolves to put on his dancing shoes again.
The plot of the film is something of a hit-and-miss affair - it can occasionally feel like it's been forcibly stitched together from a bunch of really great stand-alone scenes and ideas. Some of the narrative decisions don't make a whole lot of sense either. Why, for instance, is Julia anointed the boss rather than a new colleague? It seems to complicate matters unnecessarily throughout the entire film, given the ethical issues at stake in an employer-employee relationship.
But there's no real need to over-think things when Cuban Fury is just so goshdarn chirpy, funny and entertaining. The film practically radiates its own brand of amiable humour, often zipping from goofy wordplay to awkward slapstick within the space of a single scene. Amidst the roof-top dance-offs and mix-tape mix-ups, there's even a little room for huge helpings of heart. Bruce becomes a better person for doing what he loves, and it's a joy to see him find the confidence he'd lost all those years ago.
Whenever the script misses a beat, its oddball characters come to the rescue. Frost's Bruce is a standard-issue unlikely hero, and Jones is almost criminally wasted as the painfully underwritten Julia. But the weirdos dancing around them are a delight. Hilariously committed to the part of Drew, O'Dowd is clearly having fun being as rude, nasty and offensive as he possibly can. Ian McShane is marvellous as Bruce's dour old dance teacher, Ron, and Kayvan Novak steals scenes aplenty as Bruce's gleefully flamboyant new friend Bejan. Even so, it's Olivia Colman who walks away with top honours: she's spectacularly funny and appealing as Bruce's open-hearted, game-for-anything sister Sam.
Cuban Fury isn't a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination. Unlike the Cornetto Trilogy, it doesn't have something smarter and more subversive to say about its chosen genre of film. This is a sports-laced romantic comedy with no greater ambition than making its audience laugh. Not every element of it works perfectly, and the script can be lead-footed in parts. But, when it comes down to it, the film is so sweet and silly that it sometimes approaches the sublime.