Honey

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Honey Daniels holds down jobs as a bartender, a record store clerk and a dance teacher at a community center run by her mother in New York. Honey’s dream is to make it as a backup dancer in music videos.

When Honey visits a club where her rival Katrina works, the two are recorded as they try to out dance each other. When Honey and friend Gina leave the club, they encounter brothers Benny and Raymond street dancing with other kids from the neighborhood. Honey invites them to attend her classes at the community center, where they work together to inspire new dance moves. The video from the club catches the attention of music director Michael Ellis, who gives Honey a job as a backup dancer in Jadakiss’ new video. Unimpressed with his current choreographer, Michael decides to let Honey choreograph the video. Before long, Honey is asked to choreograph for Tweet, Sheek Louch, and Shawn Desman.

Honey’s new choreography career makes it tougher for her mother to maintain the dilapidated community center. Wanting to help, Honey finds an old store for sale and decides to turn it into a dance studio for the local kids. Honey’s parents want her to teach ballet classes and refuse to help with the new dance studio, but Honey puts down a deposit. Meanwhile, she convinces Michael to let her use the kids she teaches at the center as backup dancers in Ginuwine’s new video.

Honey makes plans to take Gina to Atlantic City for her birthday, but Michael convinces her to make an appearance at a black and white party instead, where he subsequently makes a drunken pass at her. She refuses his advances and leaves the party. Michael later fires Honey and the kids from Ginuwine’s new video, replacing her with Katrina and blackballing Honey from the business.

The kid dancers are heart broken about this turn of events. Benny starts working for street corner drug dealers and soon lands in juvy. When Honey visits him there, Benny refuses her help and insults her. As she leaves, Honey asks him how often his drug friends visit and he is visibly saddened by her question.

Depressed, Honey is relieved when Gina renews their friendship and helps Honey realize she can still make her dreams come true. Honey has been struggling to make the full down payment on the studio, and eventually comes up with the idea to hold a dance benefit at an abandoned church. Benny, released from juvy, brings his dance friends to help prep for the benefit.

Michael has been hired to manage a new video for Missy Elliott. He pushes Katrina as the choreographer, having her do a short routine for Missy. Missy is unimpressed and makes it clear that she will postpone the filming of her video until Michael fires Katrina and brings in Honey, whose work she has seen. Michael begs Honey to work for him and even offers to buy her the studio but she refuses, saying she will pay for the studio on her own.

Gina talks to the bank manager, who calls some local arts community donors to attend the benefit. The benefit is a full house, including Honey’s parents, Benny’s disapproving mother and Honey’s boyfriend Chaz. The audience is wildly enthusiastic about the performances. Benny’s mother sees the future he has as a choreographer, while Honey’s parents change their mind about forcing her to be a ballet teacher. Tweet is in the audience and joins Honey on stage to celebrate her victory. Missy Elliott arrives as the benefit finishes, wanting to finally meet Honey in person. As the credits roll, we watch a music video for Blaque, which has been choreographed by Honey on Missy Elliott’s recommendation.

REVIEW:

Sometimes you just want a little Honey added to your tea, right? Ok, that was a bad excuse for a pun, but it got the title in, so that’s all that matters. Back in the day, this was one of my guilty pleasure films. Fast forward about 10 years and let’s see how it holds up, shall we?

What is this about?

Honey, a tough, sexy dancer from the inner city, becomes a successful music video choreographer, but her career is threatened when her mentor blackmails her into the following choice: either sleep with him … or be blackballed.

What did I like?

Shut up and dance. There are quite a few dance movies out there. Some are good, but most are unwatchable. You have to be the judge on this one, but the choreography is on point and really reflects what was going on at the time in the world of hip hop/r & b. Throw in some of the hot acts of the time and some sweaty, sexy dancers and  the viewer is captivated, whether they care about dancing or not. Smart move on the part of the director and overall good dancing from all involved.

Kids will be kids. Can you remember the last movie you saw that didn’t have a cute kid in it (not counting animation or porn)? I think for me it was Little Caesar. At any rate, these days kids make or break films, as it would seem. The pair of kids that Honey interacts with are no different. The one played by Lil Romeo (I guess he’s changed his name to just Romeo and, now that he’s retired, is going by his real name) even has his own storyline involving a gang. The younger of the two is the one to make the audience go “awww”, and it works.

A taste of Honey. These days, Jessica Alba just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t really know why because she doesn’t look much different than she did when she filmed this picture. That said, she was at her peak in this flick. Not only was he body toned to near perfection, but her acting chops didn’t seem as lifeless as in other films. What happened to her after this flick, I wonder? Maybe she just got the best direction of her career in a film she seems to be happier to forget. At any rate, she is a bright star shining in the sea of mediocrity that is the rest of this cast. Definitely, this is her film, and she owns it!

What didn’t I like?

Big. Remember the kid that was the young version of Tom Hanks in Big? Well, he resurfaced to play the sleazy antagonist of the film. Where should I begin with this guy? Perhaps I should bring up that he seems like he’s a prototype for Will Schuster from Glee with the hair. Second, his plan reminds me of Rob Lowe’s character from Wayne’s World but with a slight alteration. So, what I’m saying is that this guy just isn’t that great of a character, even for this film. I guess that is why they dug out some no-name guy to play him.

Cliche’ Stop me if you heard this before. Main character works their butt off for a better life and, through some twist of fate, manages to make it to the big time. After living with fame for a bit, they decide to give back to the community, but before that can happen, they run afoul of the person that brought them their fame, in turn making a villain who wants to destroy the rec center (or reasonable facsimile). Before this can happen, the entire neighborhood and some famous friends come together at the last minute to save it. That pretty much sums up this and about a dozen other similar flicks with the same cliché plot that we have all grown tired of.

What could have been. I always wondered why Jessica Alba was chosen as the role of an inner city dancer. Nothing against her, I think she was a dancer before she became an actress, now that I think about it, but she is a lone Latina in an African American neighborhood, plus her parents seem to be upper middle class, at least. Well, it turns out that this role was meant for Aaliyah, and the only reason we didn’t see her in it is because she died before filming started. Such a shame. I feel this would have been a different film with her in the role. Whether that is good or bad, I can’t tell you.

Final verdict on Honey? This is a nice little dance movie that showcases much of the urban music of the early 2000s, as well as some hot dancers and dance moves. Jessica Alba owns the screen when she is on it and the supporting cast tries to keep up, but they aren’t really given enough to make any sort of impact. The cliché plot just isn’t redeemable and seeing Alba show off some serious skin and show off how genuinely cute as a button she is/was can only go so far. Do I recommend this? Yes, but only as a weekend afternoon flick or as part of a dance film marathon.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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