Directed by: Bille Woodruff
Starring: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Lil' Romeo, David Moscow, Missy Elliot
I knew better than to think this was in any way related to the 1930 Nancy Carroll musical of the same name, even if the prospect of a hip-hop version of "Sing You Sinners" was an amusing fantasy (almost up there with Barbra Streisand's cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars" as mind-boggling entertainment).
Yet the five reels of disaster that are Honey do play like an urbanized version of one of those 1930s Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney things where the kids band together to save a theater or an orphanage or a you-fill-in-the-blank by putting on a show in an abandoned Depression-era jute mill. You just have to imagine Judy sporting a bare tummy and a navel piercing. And instead of Paul Whiteman and his band showing up to save the day, you get a couple of comic cameos from hip-hopster Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott (whose only previous acting credit is -- oh, dear God! -- Pootie Tang).
No, I'm not kidding: That's really it for the basic plot -- well, that combined with a couple of other hoary cliches (i.e., the girl who lives for hip-hop with the mother who wants her to pursue ballet, and the girl who gets her "big break" only to find it comes with casting-couch obligations). A guaranteed recipe for disaster? Not quite. It's merely a formula for the trite and true. The disaster comes with the one-two punch of Kim Watson (Nickelodeon TV's Little Bill) and newcomer Alonzo Brown's treatment of these cliches in their script, and with how Bille Woodruff, the pre-requisite video-director-turned-filmmaker, serves it all up.
Maybe this is the treatment Jessica Alba deserves in her efforts to parlay a career in television into a career in film, but no one who didn't come into the public eye by way of American Idol warrants anything this harebrained. It's really not worth the time it would take for me to list the litany of lameness that makes up this sorry excuse for a movie -- nor would it be worth your time reading it.
Will Honey succumb to the sexual advances of smarmy video director Michael Ellis (David Moscow, Just Married), or will she remain true to the genuine love of Chaz (Mekhi Phifer, 8 Mile)? Will Benny (Lil' Romeo, TV's Romeo!) succumb to the evils of the mean streets, or will he find Redemption through the magic of Honey's teaching him to dance? Will Honey's mother (Lonette McKee, Men of Honor) accept her daughter's dream of saving the 'hood from itself via a dance studio, and see the compositional genius of Missy Elliott as outweighing the outdated charms of Mr. Tchaikovsky? Will Honey and the kids be a hit and make the dance studio a reality?
If you can answer those burning questions, then you can sleep easily without having to see Honey. If you don't care what the answers are, you may sleep even better. If you can't answer those questions and yet do care, I'm sure a friendly theater employee will wake you up between showings.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke