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IN SHORT: Teen dateflick. [Rated PG-13 for drug content and some sexual references. 90 minutes]
First things first: we want to send props to whatever executive decided that Honey didn't need to prove its street cred by littering its dialog with every variation of the "F" word under the sun. Given the hip hop base for this flick, we expected to be buried in 'em. None were heard by these ears (there is one mundane four letter word buried in here to get the PG-13 rating, though). That being said and put out of the way we, a middle-aged white boy, planted for Jessica Alba's first big screen starrer and didn't understand a bloody word. (Second props to whoever, as no character says "you know what I'm saying?" after muttering some unintelligible street gibberish, too).
On the other hand, many any years ago, we did score in the highest percentile for reading in context, so we managed to follow along fairly well 'cuz there's not much to follow along with in the first half of Honey. When we first meet Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba), she is tending bar at OverDrive, the hottest hip hop club in The Bronx. It's one of two jobs Honey holds, the second is a daytime gig in a record store called Crazy Louie's. Those are pay the rent gigs. Honey dreams of the big time as a hip hop video dancer. In the meantime she works on her dance moves on the OverDrive floor with room mate Gina (Joy Bryant). It is there that her moves are captured on tape by a scout for high powered vid director Michael Ellis (David Moscow). He likes what he sees and he tracks down the next fresh thing and gives her a job with a surprising fast track up to full choreographer status.
Oh, did we mention that Honey also teaches hip hop dance to kids at the Hunts Point Youth Center, where she tries to keep lí'l gangstas in training, like Benny (Li'l Romeo), off the street. The druggie gangstas who service the rich white boys looking for illegal stuff don't appreciate that. Watching out for our lovely star, who spends a good part of the early vidshoots stripped down to the naughties and greased up good is a potential white knight, so to speak, named Chaz (Mekhi Phifer). Not only does Chaz provide the eventual love interest, he is also a protector and supporter of star Honey, in short the iconic partner to her driven character, its creative compulsions unleashed and expecting to produce with the biggest hip hop names around. Some of those interaction come off with a laugh. Missy Elliot has a cameo scene that just needs to be seen to be believed.
Without obscenities we had no excuse with which to justify an early exit. We don't particularly like hip hop either but, getting back to that reading in context thing, we dug in and watched the audience. Actually we watched Alba, who is too foxy to live, and listened to the audience. Then the strangest thing happened. Honey, about half way through, found its storytelling legs and proceeded to tell a story. The music softened up just a little, as if to avoid getting in the way and the film moved into a Star is Born meets Flashdance mode, with rising star Honey nailing down a rep as a top choreographer, thanks to her innate talent and the power of her new friend the director. You know a booty call is coming but it doesn't play out in the way you think.
In that second half Honey plays like a mix of a self-realization video and old "we've got a barn let's put on a show!" story template, though the barn is a vacant commercial space and banker Mrs. Strom (Judi Embden) becomes patron to a whole community of wannabe hip hop vid dancers. Works for us. See Honey save the kids from the evil clutches of street gangstas and drug dealers! See Honey bring the high powered industry dudes to their knees! See Missy Elliot (a rap star greatly in need of subtitles if ever there was one) bring the hammer down!
Ah, heck, folks. This ain't no place for a dumb old whit boy . . . That being said, those parents who feel the same as we do have nothing to worry about if their kidlets insist of planting for Honey. The producers walked a very fine line between video over kill and street story stripped of all the sex and cuss words. They pretty much pull it off.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Honey, he would have paid . . .
Teens take date. Hip hop fans add a couple of bucks and enjoy cameos, in addition to Ms. Elliot, by Ginuwine, 3rd Storee, Shawn Desman, Tweet and Jadakiss & Sheek of the L.O.X.
Our spell check program has just fled the country. Gee, thankx, Honey <g>
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