I looked at two other blog sites today that both reviewed this movie. That is something I do not usually do before seeing a film. I want my perspective to be untainted as much as possible. The thing of it is though, I had no plan to see this movie before today. I’d only heard of it a day or two ago, and I knew next to nothing about it except that it featured dancing and Nick Frost. I let my curiosity get the better of me and I peeked at what others had said. It was not promising. The reviews that I saw were not terrible but they were at best lukewarm to the movie. They did however fill in enough details to let me know that this might be a movie I would appreciate.
Since I have the week off at one of my work sites, I thought I’d be able to take some time and sneak in several films. No such luck and to be honest I was not excited about anything I’d not already seen. I took my AMC Stubbs points, marched down and caught the matinee of this movie. I’m 56 years old and I was the youngest person in the theater. It was on one of the four big screens at the multiplex with 17 screens. There were maybe a half dozen of us there so the house seemed cavernous. All that said, everybody had a pretty good time. I heard the 70 year old ladies a dozen seats down from me laugh several times and I was doing the same. The film was a little predictable, but all romantic comedies are. What sets this apart from most of the others is the salsa-dancing background and the star.
For some reason I have usually enjoyed movie dancing. From the classic Hollywood musicals of the golden age, to the 80’s revisionism of Fame, Flashdance and Footloose (the three big “Fs” of the 80s), a little fancy footwork seemed to do it for me. This film takes a big dose of “Strictly Ballroom” and crosses it with a goofball comedy sensibility to entertain for the nearly two hours that it ran. A dancer who has lost his way and seems to have settled for a more mundane existence, gets a chance to reconnect with his roots. All the while being slighted by an obnoxious co-worker and romantic rival. I liked the dialogue that reveals what a pig the rival really is and the performance of Chris O’Dowd as the odious Drew was at least a third of the fun in the movie. So it is an underdog story set in England centered around salsa dancing.
The underdog here is Nick Frost, as Bruce, the man who gave up salsa as a child when bullied by a group of other boys. His sweetheart of a sister was his dancing partner and she still bravely faces the world with her own quirky way of coping. It is the arrival of a pretty new American woman who stirs Bruce’s romantic inclinations, and when he discovers that she also salsas, he returns to the art, twenty-five years out of practice. Frost is best known to me as Simon Pegg’s counterpart in the “Cornetto Trilogy”(there is a “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance by Mr. Pegg in this film as well). He is a sweet faced, overweight, lump of an actor, who manages to bring real personality to his roles and sweep aside the stereotypes of his visual image. In this film, the whole goal is to subvert those sterotypes while also exploiting them for laughs. It worked really well for me.
It is not a classic that you will want to return to over and over again, but it has it’s moments. There are some great scenes with an effeminate Persian man who encourages Bruce that are very funny. The showdown between Bruce and Drew is hysterically staged and full of mad ingenuity. The peripheral characters, including Ian McShane as Bruce’s old salsa coach, fill the movie with little bits of charm and mild laughter. It was better than I was expecting and the credit has to go to Nick Frost, who manages to make us care that a dumpy guy might have bigger dreams than what he seems doomed to live out.