A bitter dance with mediocrity

December 05, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Honey is assuredly the first film that would have benefited from an appearance by Bobby Goldsboro.

For those not old enough to remember, Goldsboro was the singer of "Honey," among the most treacly, overwrought songs of modern times. But even it would have been an improvement over this stilted, vacuous mess of a movie.

Honey is one of those films where everyone keeps pointing out how great the hero is, because otherwise the audience would never know it. It aims to be the Flashdance of a new generation, but succeeds only in making that earlier film look like Citizen Kane. It's relentlessly dumb and relentlessly humorous, and those aren't the adverbs it was after.

Jessica Alba, of TV's Dark Angel, is Honey. She's a dancer. She's going to make the big time. And she's got a heart the size of the Lower East Side. More about her you need not know - which is a good thing, since more about her the script does not tell.

Honey splits her time equally between shaking her groove thing in clubs, for the benefit of any big-time music-video directors who might be watching, and shaking her groove thing at the rundown local community center, for the benefit of kids in desperate need of a role model. Her big break comes when a director named Michael (David Ellis), who may as well be wearing a tag that says "smarmy," spots her on the dance floor one night. Within days, she's the No. 1 choreographer in all of hip-hop (big names, including Jadakiss & Sheek, Shawn Desman and Ginuwine, show up to play themselves and thus lend credence to Honey's prowess).

Alas, things are not destined to continue going well for Honey. Her morals will simply not let her play along with all the hypocrites, sycophants and leches surrounding her. And the tug of those kids back at the community center, who'd have nowhere to go without her, proves irresistible. What's a gal to do?

Alba is indisputably beautiful, with abs that look to have been sculpted by Michelangelo; unfortunately, her abs do most of the acting, while her face is locked in glamour-magazine smiles and pouts. She also may be a great dancer (she eschewed the use of a double in her dance scenes), though it would be hard to prove it by what is in evidence here; she does fine, but there's nothing about her moves that jumps off the screen.

In fact, Honey is filled with gorgeous young faces with naught else to do. Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile) is the virtuous would-be boyfriend who always shows up in the nick of time, while Joy Bryant, so appealing in Antwone Fisher, is the sassy girlfriend. One of the first times we see her, she's cupping her breasts and shaking them at some guy on the dance floor, a move that pretty much defines her role in the film.

Not even the singers who show up to strut their stuff in support of Honey inject much life into things. Only hip-hop superstar Missy Elliott, with a pair of outrageously funny cameos, makes much of an impression, and she doesn't appear until the film's last 15 minutes.

Honey is simply awful; even the considerable eye candy on display is not enough to redeem it. The dialogue is puerile, the camera far too impressed with itself (director Bille Woodruff's background is in Britney Spears videos, and it shows), the plot so ill-thought-out that calling it cliched might be too much of a compliment. Just about everyone associated deserves better, including those buying the tickets.


Starring Jessica Alba

Directed by Bille Woodruff

Rated PG-13 (language, drug content, sexual references)

Released by Universal

Time 94 minutes

Sun Score *

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