Honey (Jessica Alba) is a dance instructor in a neighbor teen center
Honey incorporates more ‘street’ moves when she sees Benny (Lil' Romeo) break dancing, a little homage to Flashdance going on here
A perennial favorite of Hollywood is the "common kids, let’s put on a show". You know the type of film I mean, we’ve all seen them. From the old Mickey Roonie/Judy Garland flicks to Sister Act 2 and even, to some extent, Moulin Rouge a group of extremely talented young people assemble to save some institution from financial ruin by putting on a show. This venerable classic theme has entered the world of hip hop with Honey. Honey (Jessica Alba) is a dance instructor in a neighbor teen center. She incorporates more ‘street’ moves when she sees Benny (Lil' Romeo) break dancing, a little homage to Flashdance going on here. When city building inspectors find numerous infractions in the center Honey and her crew turn to renting out an abandoned church to raise money for the repairs.
The plot of Honey is straight out of the Hollywood playbook right down to the sub plots of the disapproving parent that comes around during the show and the young girl that is discovered by a talent agent. Getting discovered in a neighborhood production or local club was the standard fashion of being discovered before the advent of the numerous reality television shows that provide the requisite fifteen minutes of fame. Here the plot, as it is, shifts to the standardized young girl that has to balance three jobs to make ends meet finding success in a field that provides an outlet for her talent. When a music director Michael Ellis (David Moscow) sees Honey on the dance floor he immediately offers her an audition for a music video he is producing. The hapless Honey now finds it difficult to balance her new success with her humble origins. Torn between the friendships that ground her and the glitzy life she desires Honey is torn.
While there is not much that is new here I have to give credit to the level on enthusiasm displayed by cast and crew. There is an undeniable energy that infuses the production. Attempts to tug at our heart strings with the relationship problems are belabored heroine encounters fall flat only because the material is so familiar to us from many previous films. Each scene provides a good dose of déjà vu. Still, it is important to remember the target audience here, a demographic that I am admittedly not part of. As a teen date flick it works due largely to the energy the numerous dance sequences provide. While so many current films deal with heavy drama and computer enhanced battles, Honey is a film that allows the audience to forget the cognitive processes altogether for 90 minutes or so.
Without a doubt the real star of this flick is the often seen navel of Jessica Alba. Say what you want but this young woman has six pack abs that are put through their paces at every available opportunity. Honey demonstrates just how closely related high impact choreography is to movie fight scenes. Ms Alba seamlessly makes the transition from the butt kicking fighting she displayed in her breakout television show, Dark Angel, to the dance moves she exhibits here. Mekhi Phifer hands in a workable performance as Honey’s love interest and protector. He is growing nicely as an actor and gives the film what ever emotional depth is possible. David Moscow as Michael, the music video producer gives us an oily villain, one that wants more from Honey than her dancing abilities. Together the cast works well for this type of film.
This was director Bille Woodruff first feature length opus. Having garnered some degree of success directing music videos for some of the stellar performers popular to the MTV crowd he doesn’t stray far from his typical formula. Fundamentally this film is a prolonged music video. This is becoming more popular in recent years but this film does have an important distinction. For one thing it does not overly pretend to be more than it is. It appears that everyone involved realizes this is a feature length music video and they work within these constraints. While some effort did go into providing a story and emotional investment of the audience these aspects of movie making are not really required to view this film. The staging, lighting and framing of the scenes are such that if you take any three minute portion and you can have a new video for MTV. Woodruff has targeted fans of the hip hop genre of music and gives the audience what they expected, not stop dance moves. Woodruff paces the film in such a way that the senses barely have time to recover between dance numbers. For those that are not such minded fans of the genre this film will seem far longer than the hour and half running time. Perhaps the director will learn that the translation from a three minute video to a film requires alternations to his style and he will be able of taking the energy displayed here and direct it to a more substantial presentation.
The DVD is very well done. The Dolby 5.1 audio pounds the speakers relentlessly. The sub woofer booms into the room and shakes the floor. The sound stage itself is fairly well balanced making reasonable use of all speakers. The dialogue does take second place to the dance so the clarity of the center speaker is almost a moot point. The anamorphic vide is crisp and clear, free of any compression artifacts. There was a little dulling of the blacks when contrasted with brighter colors. The disc is filled with extras that fans of hip hop will greatly appreciate. There is a making of featurette, Behind the Groove, that displays the work required to pull of the dance numbers and gives some of the reactions of the director and cast. Another featurette, The Choreography of Honey, showed the incredible amount of work Ms Alba put into her physically demanding role. If a ninety minute music video is not enough for you the disc also provides three additional videos, Jadakiss’ "J-A-D-A," "I’m Good" by Blaque, and "Sexy" by Shawn Desman. Rounding out the presentation are a few deleted scenes. This one is only for true hip hop fans. Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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