The “five laugh” rule for comedies is one Mark Kermode came up with to distinguish between the good and bad of the genre. It’s a simple enough rule, if you laugh (rather than merely titter or chuckle) five times at a comedy then it’s done its job.
The problem with the rule is that a ‘good’ 100 minute comedy film need only make you laugh once every 20 minutes. It seems like a fairly paltry return, and perhaps speaks more to the low expectations we have for the genre than the genuine quality of the film in question.
Cuban Fury is a comedy film. In it we see Nick Frost play an employee who would like to ask out his new boss (Rashida Jones). However, he feels the only way he will have a chance with her is if he learns to salsa again, something he hasn’t done since he packed it all in when he was a teenager. Standing in his way is his much more confident and calculating colleague Chris O’Dowd.
Everything about the film is just as contrived as the synopsis makes it sound. However, it’s not without its charms. All the main players get a chance to shine, and there are at least five laughs to be had. The problem is it has so little ambition it simply feels like an extended episode of a sitcom.
One could easily imagine, for example, Ross in Friends or Manny in Modern Family taking up dancing to impress a woman/girl, no doubt with “hilarious” consequences. It would probably make a good 20 minutes of television, but it makes for quite an underwhelming hundred minutes of cinema.
Cuban Fury then is basically akin to a McFlurry. Fine if you’re in McDonald’s and that’s what you fancy, but not something you’d want set in front of you when you’re out for a good meal.
And cinema should be like going out for a good meal; it should dazzle us, provoke our imagination, challenge our thought. It should not merely keep us entertained.
Of course there is nothing wrong with a film that make us laugh, but the best comedy films do more than that, they can point to our own inadequacies or satirise the ludicrousness of things we hold dear.
Cuban Fury does none of those things, and doesn’t even attempt to either. It is content to be a McFlurry – fine at the time, but with no lasting value.