`The Honeymooners': How sweet it isn't

MovieReview

June 10, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Let's define a "warmedy" as a comedy far more concerned with being warm-and-fuzzy than with being funny. The Honeymooners is a warmedy. And not a very good one.

Based on the classic TV sitcom starring Jackie Gleason as big-dreaming Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as his best friend, sewer worker Ed Norton, The Honeymooners does no one's memory any good. Badly paced and leadenly scripted, with jokes that only register because characters pause for the expected laughter (almost nonexistent at the screening I attended), The Honeymooners is one of the biggest disappointments of this still-young movie year.

Curiously, director John Schultz (Like Mike) and his team of four credited screenwriters have chosen to do The Honeymooners as science fiction set in the future - its first third takes place as the 2005 World Series is being played, with the New York Mets involved in a Game 7 showdown.

OK, so realism isn't key here. Things even start going for naught in an opening sequence set six years earlier, as Ralph (Cedric the Entertainer) bops his bus down a New York street to the tune of Chuck Brown's "Bustin' Loose." A big man showing off his moves, now there's a guaranteed laugher we've never seen before. At least not in the last week.

Ralph is one of those get-rich-quick guys, always looking for the next sure thing. So far, Y2K survival kits, Pet Cacti and male purses haven't done the job, but he's still trying, to the consternation of wife Alice (Gabrielle Union). Aiding him in schemes is good-hearted but empty-headed Norton (Mike Epps).

On TV, and in the person of Gleason and Carney (with no small assist from Audrey Meadows as Alice), the Kramdens and Nortons proved a stitch. But that was almost a half-century ago. Modern sensibilities might not react well to a hero (Ralph) threatening to punch his wife ("To the moon, Alice!"). Honeymooners 2005 turns the Kramdens into low-key bickerers and calls in Carol Woods as Ralph's wisecracking mother-in-law to amp up the friction.

The film then stumbles into something of a plot, as Alice and Norton's wife, Trixie (Regina Hall), find their dream home and plan to combine their savings for the down payment - a problem, since Ralph has frittered the money away on a derelict subway car that was going to make them all rich. Desperate to replenish the family coffers, Ralph and Norton come up with one final plan, involving a discarded greyhound, a dog track and a $20,000 grand prize.

If none of this sounds especially funny, that's because it isn't. Cedric comes across as one big teddy bear, while Epps just whines. One of the few scenes that does work is a montage of ways Ralph and Norton try to raise the money they need. But the bit involves portraying the friends as con artists and petty thieves, things nothing else in the movie suggests they are. Only John Leguizamo as a shady dog trainer generates laughs with any consistency - sometimes through the sheer force of Leguizamo's antic will.

At least The Honeymooners is not one of those remakes that looks bad compared to the original. It's just bad, period.

Honeymooners

Starring Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union

Directed by John Schultz

Released by Paramount

Rated PG-13

Time 90 minutes

Sun Score *1/2 (1 star and 1 half star)

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