The Honeymooners

2005, Movie, PG-13, 90 mins


When you strip golden-age TV comedy The Honeymooners of its cast — blustering Jackie Gleason, tart-tongued Audrey Meadows, giddy Art Carney and level-headed Joyce Randolph — all that's left is a domestic sitcom about two lower-middle class couples. A pioneering sitcom, to be sure, but the conventions it pioneered are so old they're almost due to come out the other side of hoary cliche. The four credited writers who cobbled together this misguided reworking bring absolutely nothing fresh or new or even distinctive to the table, so it's no surprise that the result is the blandest, most generic domestic comedy imaginable. Blustering New York City bus driver Ralph Kramden (Cedric the Entertainer) has big ambitions, but his get-rich-quick schemes always fizzle miserably. His wife, Alice (Gabrielle Union), just wants a house of her own, and there's one for sale in their Brooklyn neighborhood. If the Kramdens and their best friends/upstairs neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton (Mike Epps, Regina Hall) — he works in the sewers, she waits tables with Alice at Q's Diner — join finances, they might be able to scrape together the $20,000 down payment. The catch: Smug real-estate magnate William Davis (Eric Stoltz) is planning to develop the block Alice's dream home sits on; if they can't come up with the money in two weeks, sweet old Miss Benvenuti (Alice Drummond) will have to sell the place to Davis. So Ralph and Ed embark on a series of harebrained money-making escapades, each sillier and less funny than the one before. The last and most labored involves Iggy, the sweet-faced racing greyhound the pair rescued from a Dumpster, and a shady dog whisperer (John Leguizamo) who swears he can make Iggy a champ. This attempt to reinvigorate the Honeymooners franchise weaves gentle in-jokes and allusions to the show's signature themes into the generic, flatfooted gags and defuses the original's omnipresent threat of domestic violence — "Wham! Pow! To the moon, Alice!" But turning it into a cutesy-pie promise of future bliss — ''I'll take you to the moon, Alice" — is just sappy. And really, what's the point? No one who loves The Honeymooners wants to see it rehashed with contemporary comics, and no one who wants to see contemporary comics cares about The Honeymooners. When a performer as sharp as Cedric the Entertainer is reduced to funny fat-guy shtick, you know you're in the presence of grinding mediocrity. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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