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Honey   C-

Universal Pictures

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Bille Woodruff
Writers: Alonzo Brown, Kim Watson
Cast: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Joy Bryant, Lil' Romeo, David Moscow, Lonette McKee, Zachary Isiah Williams, Missy Elliott.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Walking into the theater for an advance screening of Honey, an employee manning the ticket counter uttered a dire verdict. "I don't envy you tonight," he said with an all-too-solemn expression.

His warning was legitimate, though exaggerated. Honey isn't terrible, it's lazy. The movie's built on the ambitious dreams of cooped up teenage girls and the overactive fantasies of pent up teenage boys. But it doesn't bother to avoid the formulaic "dreamer" plot we've seen countless times before. Those who endured anything from Flashdance to Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo might be screaming, "Been there, danced to that."

Honey showcases Jessica Alba's talents. A curvy actress with her own cult following courtesy of the short-lived Fox drama Dark Angel, she plays Honey Daniels, an inner-city dancer with big-time choreography dreams. And Alba looks fantastic when greased up and nearly naked -- as is often the case on-screen. She's got a permanent pearly-white grin pasted below her nose, her body's water tight, and her limbs twist like snakes to the driving hip-hop beats.

To her credit, though, Alba's more than a mannequin modeling body glitter and Lycra. She shapes her motivated Honey into a work in progress. Her saucer-wide eyes make sentimental connections with the one-note characters floating through her universe. Mekhi Phifer is gently supportive as love interest Chaz, and Joy Bryant dutifully falls into place as Honey's best friend. Lil' Romeo, however, might be the first rapper who's incapable of acting on the big screen. He's embarrassingly bad.

Honey flirts with acceptability until screenwriters Alonzo Brown and Kim Watson fall back on tired plot developments and expected obstacles. Honey's friends must get left in the dancer's wake. Her sleazy boss has to make a move on her. Further unoriginal subplots, from a drug-dealing bust to a broken home, are tied up with a glaring red bow by movie's end.

Again, not terrible, just lazy. Utilizing a strange savior mentality, Honey keeps pushing Alba off the dance floor, making her an urban Mother Teresa providing foster care for two wayward thugs, and turning the hip-hop video industry into a welfare program to get underprivileged children off the streets. Alba should have a Superman "S" embroidered on her skin-tight top. Edit out these and other frail plot points, and the high-energy Honey would make a fine Jazzercise tape for the next generation.

Review published 12.03.2003.

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