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Honey (2003)

Her dream. her terms.

Directed by:

Billie Woodruff

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States

The indefatigable Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba) works by day in a record store and by night behind bar at a club – but her real passion is dancing, all her spare time being devoted to music video auditions and a hiphop class that she runs for the community. Spotting Honey’s talent and beauty, director Michael Ellis (David Moscow) invites her onto a dance set, and quickly promotes her to choreographing major videos. Her new career may leave her no time for her old friends or her dance class, but it does enable her to afford the downpayment on an abandoned Bronx building that she hopes to turn into a community dance centre for the local street kids who will otherwise be lost to a world of drugs and crime. Yet when Honey spurns Michael’s drunken advances, she finds herself unemployed, and must resort to a local benefit performance to raise the rest of the money.

‘Honey’ ought really to be terrible. It ploughs over that whole New-York-fairytale terrain already shown to be so barren by films like Maid in Manhattan and Uptown Girls. Its plot is highly derivative, falling somewhere between ‘The Blues Brothers’ (but without the comedy, the car chases, or indeed the blues) and ‘Flashdance’ (with her off-the-shoulder get-up, Jessica Alba even looks like Jennifer Beals). Its dance sequences are too long, making the film at times seem like an extended version of one of the earlier music videos by its director Billie Woodruff. And its attempts to look streetsmart are too contrived to win it any real street credibility.

Yet for all this, ‘Honey’ has its heart in the right place, making it a difficult film to dislike for very long. It champions, while never quite preaching, community values and the work ethic, and while it dramatises the music industry’s cynical capacity to exploit fans and artists alike, it also suggests (with a certain optimism) that ultimately the industry’s only true currency is raw talent. The economic script manages to squeeze issues of family, friendship, class, crime and social alienation into a mere hour and a half, without ever seeming too superficial.

Alba makes an assured cinematic debut here, essentially rehashing her saint-of-the-streets rôle from TV’s ‘Dark Angel’, but also showing for the first time how well she can shake her booty on the dance floor. On side to help is the ever-welcome Mekhi Phifer as haircutting love interest Chaz – and there are some brief appearances from Missy Elliott (as herself), the slight awkwardness of which is mitigated by her rapid-fire digs at MC Hammer and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’.

In the end, ‘Honey’ is a bit like a pop song that infuriates you a little, but still gets you tapping along to its beat. No work of genius, but unexpectedly endearing.

It's Got: An unabashedly irony-free use of the line "these kids are good kids, and man do they love to dance".

It Needs: To seem less at times like a music video.

Alternatives:

Fame, Flashdance, The Blues Brothers

Summary

Sweet without being too drippy – just like honey.

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