By Shawn McKenzie 12/05/2003
The ads for Honey are a little misleading…this isn’t Coyote Ugly for the hip-hop crowd. It’s almost worse.
Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba) is a dancer who moonlights as a bartender in a nightclub. On her breaks, she does her dance routines out on the floor, which ticks off her rival, Katrina (Laurie Ann Gibson.) She also works in a music store with her best friend Gina (Joy Bryant) and as a teacher of hip-hop dance at the local community center (which I don’t think pays her.) Honey’s clueless mom (Lynette McKee), who seems to think she’ll become rich and famous dancing ballet rather than hip-hop (because, you know, ballet videos practically clutter MTV night and day), runs the community center. Her father (Anthony Sherwood) supports her dreams, and wishes her luck on every music video audition she goes on. One night, during one of her dancing sessions at the club, a talent scout videotapes her. The scout shows the tape to video director Michel Ellis (David Moscow), who approaches her the next night offering her a job dancing for the new Jadakiss video. When she gets to the shoot, she manages to upstage the dance routines of the video’s choreographer (Brandy Marie Ward), and Michael uses her routines in the video. He soon has her act as his regular choreographer, and she choreographs videos for Sheek, Tweet, and more. Even though we don’t see it, apparently the music store and bartending jobs go bye-bye, and Honey no longer has any time for her friends and her dance class. This means missing Gina’s birthday party, and not teaching the class, which was intended to keep kids off the street, like Benny (Lil’ Romeo) and his little brother Raymond (Zachary Isaiah Williams.) Benny has been sucked into a life of crime by a local street thug named B.B. (Wes Maestro Williams), and Raymond is concerned, since they live with their overworked mother and abusive stepdad, who both haven’t kept him off the streets themselves. One idea she has to get the kids off the street is to have them dance for Ginuwine’s latest video in the neighborhood. She also wants to buy a new studio for the neighborhood to have a dance school. When an unfortunate turn of events results in her becoming unemployed and the Ginuwine video shoot cancelled, she turns to her friends to help her raise money to buy the studio by staging a dance benefit. She even receives a little help from rapper Missy Elliot, who won’t work with any other choreographer for her latest video. Oh yeah…there is a convenient little love story between Honey and Chaz (Mekhi Phifer), a local owner of a barbershop who comes to her rescue one night when her transgenic superpowers fail to work against B.B. (oh, wait, maybe I’m confusing her with someone else.) Chaz is put there essentially to give the “message” that not everyone from the “hood” turns out to be a thug, but their relationship is barely explored.
This movie was directed by music director Bille Woodruff (no, that isn’t a typo), and it is his feature film debut. While most music directors tend to use their creative (Spike Jonze) or flashy (McGee) styles to direct a different type of movie, Woodruff essentially directed a long music video with dialogue. Heck, there’s even a music video for the R&B group Blaque during the closing credits (and the opening/closing slates credit “Honey Daniels” as the video’s choreographer. When was the last time you saw a music video credit the choreographer?) I hope Woodruff’s next movie ventures a little farther out of familiar territory.
As I said before, this isn’t Coyote Ugly. Honey doesn’t sing, and the bartender thing is over in the first ten minutes (she doesn’t even flip a bottle.) Her whining about never making it is capped very quickly when she rises to fame in split-second time, which I saw coming. In fact, I also saw EVERYTHING else coming as well. I saw the trouble Benny gets into, I saw the “twist” coming that makes Honey lose her job, and pretty much everything else. I was almost mouthing the dialogue as they said it.
I will say that Alba is a better actress than Coyote’s Piper Perabo. I only had the minor distraction of wanting her to become Max from “Dark Angel” when she was in physical danger, but otherwise she did a decent job in a movie that used her in the right way. According to the production notes, she had never taken dance lessons before, but was certainly prepared to train for it, since she was used to physical roles like “Dark Angel.” I believed her as a dancer, and since she didn’t live in a post-apocalyptic world, we got to see her infectious smile more often.
I wasn’t impressed with most of the rest of the cast. Phifer and Bryant were the best of the supporting cast, so of course they were the most underused. Despite being in the acting game for a couple of years, I don’t think Romeo has developed his acting chops yet. Moscow, whom I normally like, is awful in his highly clichéd role as the piggish director. I want to see Missy star in a movie of her own though.
As a rule, if I can predict the plot of a movie, it isn’t too good. Honey did that here. I’m the type that becomes easily duped by those twisty thrillers, so it’s not like I see it coming all the time. I would go to see it for Alba and the eye candy, but there isn’t much else left after that. Maybe it should have ripped off Coyote Ugly a little more…nah, it shouldn’t have.
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