review by Gregory Avery, 5 December 2003

In the ineffable Honey, Jessica Alba plays the title character, who works as a barkeep in dance club by night, a music store by day, teaches hip-hop dance classes at the local youth center, finds time to hang with her girl pal Gina (Joy Bryant, previously seen hanging out with Derek Luke in Antwone Fisher), and aspires to become a dancer in music videos. She not only gets discovered, by a smug, wouldbe-down video director (David Moscow) -- he makes her choreographer! That's right -- Honey has a shot at becoming the next Paula Abdul!

Then, crisis: the youth center run by her mother (the usually wonderful Lonette McKee, who scowls a lot in this film) is on the verge of collapse, so Honey sets her sight on buying a storefront that she can turn into a dance studio (Honey's mom has been insisting to her daughter that "hip-hop can't take you to places ballet can", although Honey, while rehearsing in one scene, knows what a "plie" is), so that she can provide hope and opportunity to the kids in and around the projects who have become her friends, and....

Jessica Alba looks a little like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, but she grins and is as indefatigably upbeat as a hip-hop Sonia Henie. She always says "thank you", even asks someone at one point if she remembered to tell them "thank you". She gets the love of a good-hearted, basketball-playing young man (Mekhi Phifer) who works as a barber, and she doesn't sell herself short. ("Dancing isn't what I do. It's what I am.") The movie turns out to be a squeaky-clean entertainment for young audiences who are into the hooks, plundering countless old movie clichés and recycling them with a new sheen, at a time when rap and gangsta artists are openly threatening each other with murder in no uncertain terms. (And it's positioned to be a breakout underdog film hit during the holiday season, like last year's Drumline.) It's hard to tell what parts of Honey are supposed to be taken as humorous, however. I have no idea if people are able to as effortlessly bust a move in musical unison in real life as the people do in this film -- I figure part if it, in the film, is for expediency's sake -- but Honey blowing off someone who writes her nine-thousand dollar cheques when she's in the middle of organizing and presenting a dance benefit goes beyond credibility. And Honey's bacon ends up being saved by a miraculous intervention made by Missy Elliott, played in the film by Missy Elliott (who does provide the few genuinely funny moments the film's got in its corner, even if she is threatening her limousine chauffeur during one of them).

The talented Mekhi Phifer looks resigned in many of his scenes, but he tries, and two of the young kids who Honey befriends are played, rather well, by Lil' Romeo (who picks up a move that he uses at the dance benefit while spending time in Juvey!) and the cherubim-faced Zachary Isaiah Williams. I must say that Alba even manages to look appealing even when she looks, and sometimes moves, like Britney Spears does in that Me Against the Music video where she chases an unmistakably terrified Madonna all over the place (and if you had someone who looked like THAT chasing after you, you'd be scared, too). And some of the recording artists, in the music videos Honey helps stage, who are named "Tweet" and "Ginuwine" -- that's their real names!  Missy Elliott does invoke the shade of M.C. Hammer at one point, so I hope some of these guys are banking some of what they're making, right now.

Directed by:
Bille Woodruff

Jessica Alba
Mekhi Phifer
Joy Bryant
David Moscow
Lil' Romeo
Zachary Isaiah Williams
Missy Elliott 
Lonette McKee

Written by:
Alonzo Brown
Kim Watson

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.







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