Somehow the people at Universal Pictures got it into their heads that easy-on-the-eyes, thin-on-talent Jessica Alba (star of Fox's short-lived "Dark Angel") should be a movie star.
So apparently a room full of monkeys was recruited to write "Honey," a laughable follow-your-dreams disaster in which the actress plays a sprightly, adorably indomitable, J.Lo-inspired babe from the Bronx who becomes a music-video dance choreographer, turns down a director's demand for sex, gets black-listed, then realizes what's really important in life is opening a neighborhood dance studio for street kids.
Trite and graceless, it's supposed to be the story of the girl's struggle to make it in showbiz, but no sooner does she point at a TV and say, "Check it. That's what I'm talkin' about. I should be dancing in videos like this!" than a video director (David Moscow) sees her shaking her stuff in a club and offers her a job.
Two minutes after arriving on the set of her first video, she's promoted to lead dancer. Two scenes after that she's being recruited as a choreographer by cameo-appearance hip-hop acts like Tweet and Ginuwine, and moments later she's pitching her own concepts for videos and meeting praise from producers. ("Instead of the usual hoochies," she says with a happily blank-eyed lilt, "how about some street kids?")
In fact, the only adversity Honey faces in this entire picture comes when the hitherto nice-guy director gets an unexplained personality transplant, crudely comes on to her out of the blue and gets slapped. For what must be a whole two weeks after that, he makes sure she can't get work -- even as a dancer -- until rapper Missy Elliott (whose attitude-copping single-scene appearance is this bomb's only bright moment) demands that our heroine design dances for her next video, so the director has to come crawling back. Of course, at this point her dignity won't allow her to do anything but hold a let's-put-on-a-show fundraiser to buy an empty storefront and turn it into a studio for all the talented young dancers in the 'hood.
This predictable, ineffectually Cliffs-Note-ized storyline may actually be the least of this insipidly hackneyed movie's problems. Honey's supposedly brilliant choreography (by Laurieanne Gibson, who also plays the star's inevitable catty rival) garnered rolling laughs at a target-audience preview screening this week. It has the story structure of a coloring book in its string of episodic clichés, and it's riddled with incongruities (why does Honey suddenly have a dog half way through the movie?) that escape the autopilot awareness of first-time director Bille Woodruff, a music video veteran who clearly can't think outside four-minute snippets.
Even worse, the film is littered with the kind of stale stock characters that make you feel embarrassed for the actors deigned to play them. The promising Joy Bryant ("Antwone Fisher") is Honey's finger-snapping, "you go, girl!" best friend, and Tony-nominated Lonette McKee is Honey's disapproving mother, who actually says, "Oh, sweetie, I don't know why you can't just teach a class at a nice ballet school uptown."
It's Honey herself, however, that is the movie's most preposterous amalgam of hackneyed sweetheart-heroine characteristics. She teaches hip-hop dance classes at a dilapidated community center. She helps adolescent kids (one played by pubescent rapper Lil' Romeo) avoid the thug life while the theme music from "The Young and the Restless" plays on the soundtrack (no, I'm not kidding). She even chases a guy down the street to return a dropped wad of money -- and through it all Alba never stops smiling her angelically empty Barbie-doll smile.
There is something elusively but earnestly sweet about "Honey" that saves it from being downright despicable, which is the only reason I've given the film a half-star rating. But it can't even be said that the film has good intentions, because to have any intentions at all would have required at least a modicum of imagination -- and there's not a single nanosecond of this movie that shows any creativity at all.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th December 2003
Box Office USA: $30.2M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Marc Platt Productions
Contactmusic.com: 0.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 91
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: Bille Woodruff
Starring: Jessica Alba as Honey Daniels, Mekhi Phifer as Chaz, Joy Bryant as Gina, Lil Romeo as Benny, David Moscow as Michael Ellis, Zachary Isaiah Williams as Raymond, Missy Elliott as Herself, Anthony Sherwood as Mr. Daniels, Lonette McKee as Mrs. Daniels, Maestro as B.B., Judi Embden as Mrs. Strom, Laurieann Gibson as Katrina, Alison Sealy-Smith as Marisol, Scott Neil as Lenny, Sarah Francis as Letitia, Jull Weber as Joey, Kevin Duhaney as Otis, Brandi Ward as Choreographer, Fonzworth Bentley as Barber, Tracy Dawson as Assistant Director
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