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With: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Lil' Romeo, Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott, Lonette McKee
Written by: Alonzo Brown, Kim Watson
Directed by: Bille Woodruff
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content and some sexual references
Running Time: 94
Date: 11/24/2003

Honey (2003)

1 Star (out of 4)

Dance Hall Dazed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Honey was made for people too young to remember Breakin' or Flashdanceor Footloose and who have never heard of all those Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney"let's-put-on-a-show" musicals.

If you're one of those people, you should enjoy the slapdash quality of Honey, a movie so earnest and clueless you might actually remember it for a day or two after you've paid for your ticket.

But if -- like the filmmakers and star Jessica Alba -- you're over 14 years old, it seems impossible that you could get through Honey with a straight face.

Alba alone should get points for trying to smile her way through the film's already-dated slang, saying things like "your flavor is hot" and for trying to master some kind of lower-class Brooklyn accent but never really getting it.

She plays the title character, a dancer and choreographer who gets her big break when a music video director spots her dancing in a club video. She rises quickly; in one scene she solves a complicated dance move over lunch break by watching some kids play basketball.

Honey also teaches a hip-hop dance class for kids at the local community center. Here the film can't help laying on the old-fashioned soap opera melodrama. The kids -- led by Lil' Romeo as Benny -- get mad at Honey because she's too busy with her high-paying job to hang with them. (She ain't keepin' it real.)

When the kids' community center is shut down thanks to rotten pipes, Honey tries to buy a new one. But the music video director has tried to grope her and she's beginning to lose work. And hence: "let's put on a show!"

Finally, Honey's mother (Lonette McKee) thinks she should go into a more sure-fire line of work: like ballet. Fortunately, when the mother attends the big final fund-raiser she's transformed by Honey's exuberance onstage; she finally understands!

Seriously, how could the cast and crew get through this material without giggling? I laughed throughout the entire film as I casually predicted almost every scene just before it happened. This is very old news, folks.

It doesn't help that the film doesn't seem concerned with reality, such as a music video that debuts on TV a couple of days after it's shot or a shot of Honey walking a dog that we've never seen before and will never see again.

Fortunately, Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott has a cameo that brings the film's only genuine laughs.

Mekhi Phifer also brings a brief flicker of life to the film. He plays another cliche, a barber who was once given a chance to get off the streets and would probably be a drug dealer otherwise. But Phifer's sensitive line deliveries and charm get him through.

Director Bille Woodruff slugs his way through this old material, slapping new scenes on top of old ones in a complete state of obliviousness, perhaps even thinking he's telling this story for the first time. Woodruff makes his feature debut here after a career of -- what else? -- music videos.

But somehow these kinds of old-fashioned stories retooled for younger generations always catch on, as Flashdance and Breakin' did. Their shelf lives linger about as long as a microwave pizza, and twenty years from now a group of people in their mid-30s will have a good laugh over Honey -- provided anyone remembers it.

DVD Details: Fans of Honey will be pleased; Universal's DVD is fully loaded. We've got a "dance like Honey" video, a commentary track with Alba and Woodruff, the making of Honey, music videos, the making of said music videos, 30 minutes of deleted scenes(!) and "hilarious" outtakes.

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