Honey

2003, Movie, PG-13, 94 mins

Review

HONEY
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The sweet title notwithstanding, this hip-hop Cinderella story leaves a bad taste. Ambitious and determined Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba) dreams of being a dancer in music videos. She pays the bills with bartending and record-store jobs, teaches hip-hop dance classes at the local community center and auditions constantly. While her best friend, Gina (Joy Bryant), is unflappably supportive, Honey's mother (Lonnette McKee) thinks videos are a waste of time when ballet could get her daughter farther away from her run-down Bronx neighborhood. Honey ignores her mother's wishes and becomes more deeply involved with her neighborhood, befriending young brothers Benny (Lil' Romeo) and Raymond (Zachary Isaiah Williams), who are in danger of hanging with the wrong kind of crowd. She also starts dating handsome local barber Chaz (Mekhi Phifer), but remains focused on her ultimate goal. Her hard work pays off when a lucky break puts video director Michael Ellis (David Moscow) in the club where she's strutting her stuff; he offers her a gig in one of his upcoming projects. Once on set, she tries to get in step with the other dancers, but her unique style stands out in the cookie-cutter crowd. Michael suggests that she try her hand at choreography, and Honey is soon creating moves for hip-hop stars Ginuwine and Tweet, while the demanding Missy Elliott refuses to work with anyone else. But suddenly, success begins taking its toll on her relationships, and Honey struggles to find a balance between work and a social life. First-time feature director Bille Woodruff brings a few sparks of life to this predictable and muddled disaster, but only during scenes that exploit his background as a music video director. Alba, constantly sporting off-the-shoulder tops a la FLASHDANCE, brings no depth of feeling to her character, and her average — often wooden — moves make it hard to believe she's a uniquely talented hoofer and sought-after choreographer. Phifer and Lil' Romeo are genuinely talented, and their occasional appearances contribute to the film's few enjoyable moments. The cameos by hip-hop artists are clearly meant to give the story street credibility, but their efforts can't compensate for the weakness of the script and star. The best thing that can be said is that this is a better movie than Mariah Carey's much-maligned GLITTER, and that's only because Alba doesn't try to sing. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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