Rashida Jones in Cuban Fury (Entertainment One)

Rashida Jones in Cuban Fury (Entertainment One)

Directed by James Griffiths
Produced by Nira Park and James Biddle
Written by Jon Brown, based on an idea by Nick Frost
Released by Entertainment One
UK. 98 min. Rated R
With Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, Rory Kinnear, Alexandra Roach and Ian McShane

Someone please explain to me the ethereal appeal of Rashida Jones. The actress boasts an incalculable allure that evades definition. In her now defunct role as Ann Perkins on NBC’s Parks & Recreation, it was as if Jones’s sole purpose was to stand, look pretty, throw in a few awkward asides, and receive unending compliments from Amy Poehler, most of which felt more like impositions than observations. We get it, Amy, you don’t have to convince us to like Rashida Jones because we already do. Her appearance in films and TV often adds an intangibly winning quality. Alas, despite all of her best efforts, even Jones cannot salvage the furiously unfunny calamity that is Cuban Fury.

Though the hook of the film itself is original–former British teen salsa dancing champion seeks to regain his fleet-footed finesse to impress his beautiful American boss–the execution is so poorly structured that even the film’s few breakout scenes feel like flukes rather than well-choreographed sequences. Helmed by first-time feature director James Griffiths and starring Nick Frost (co-star of Edgar Wright’s far superior “Cornetto Trilogy”), the ploddingly insipid film barely leaves the ground before it is inundated with an uninspired setup and hateful, outdated jokes. A woman as the new boss at an engineering company? She must be a hairy beast! An overweight man riding a bicycle? Wouldn’t want to be those tires! The list goes on, but the lines are so antiquated that you’ll swear you’ve heard them before.

Frost plays Bruce, the aforementioned former salsa champ, who, at the height of his ascension to teenage dancing acclaim, is pummeled by bullies and so disheartened into giving up his passion for good. Years later, slumping through life as a dejected, middle-aged engineer, Bruce unearths the fire in his feet after learning that his new boss, Julia (Jones), is also a salsa enthusiast. But while he rediscovers the dance floor with help from his sister (played by an eager Olivia Colman) and his discarded one-time coach (rendered with grumpy restraint by Ian McShane), Bruce is sidled in his romantic attempts by his insufferable co-worker Drew (Chris O’Dowd, doing the best he can with a detestably woeful script).

The film’s outcome is so glaringly predictable that I won’t delve into any more specifics. And while I applaud Frost for the seven-months of rigorous dance training that he dedicated toward prepping for the role, in the end, his salsa skills are lacking both the grace and pizzazz of a former champion. He certainly gives it his all, but when pitted against real-life salsa stars, it’s difficult to overlook his deficient dance moves.

Which brings us back to Jones. She, too, takes her turn on the dance floor, and while her tipping and twirling is a bit more believable, her confounded expression throughout says otherwise. Even at her most fetching, it’s evident that the actress longs for roles in a more well-conceived, non-sexist endeavors (I Love You, Man and Celeste and Jesse Forever are past standouts that come to mind). And O’Dowd does manage to deliver one rather prescient joke that sums up my thoughts on this gyrating dreck: “How can you take something so seriously that’s named after a dip?” This particular dip has long expired.