25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
"Honey" is a good dance movie, but it should have been great,
It seems that about once each decade there is a dance movie that captures the popular imagination, an "Honey" is definitely an attempt to be in the mold of "Saturday Night Fever," "Flashdance," and "Dirty Dancing." Unfortunately while "Honey" is entertaining, and has some minor moments with regards to the dancing, it is not going to end up being in the league of those contemporary classics. Still, from the dancing perspective, "Honey" does come out ahead of "Save the Last Dance," but that is because Jessica Alba does more of the actual dancing than Julia Styles. However, she does not do enough of it and the routines are not as exciting as they should be.
The story is rather incidental, because it is just an excuse to have people legitimately dancing as opposed to the musical tradition where people suddenly break into song and dance. Honey Daniels (Alba) wants to be a dancer. She works at a record store by dance and tends bar at a club at night, and when she goes off shift she struts her stuff on the dance floor. Honey also finds time to teach hip-hop dance classes at the local center. A toadie working for big name video director Michael Ellis (David Moscow) records her on the dance floor and he brings her in to save the day on a video shoot. The next thing we know Honey is not just dancing, she's doing choreography. Her big dream is not to be the next Paula Abdul, but to open up a real dance studio for the kids in the hood. Ellis derails Honey's plains, but the girl has got spunk, and, as everybody who has seen the ads for this movie knows, a pretty impressive guardian angel. The problem with the story is the director character of Michael Ellis. His idea of directing is a joke and I find it hard to believe that he is fooling every single one of these artists, except for the fact the story got written that way. But none of that would have mattered if the dancing had been presented a lot better.
The character of Honey has lots of minor interpersonal problems that provide some breadth but not true depth of character, such as getting successful while staying tight with her best girl Gina (Joy Bryant), putting up with all the negative vibes from her mother (Lonette McKee), hooking up with Chaz (Mekhi Phifer) the barber, and keeping an eye out for brothers Benny (Lil' Romeo) and Raymond (Zachary Williams), who are a couple of at risk kids in the neighborhood. For those who showed up to see what Jessica Alba is like without the barcode they will see some strong similarities with Max from "Dark Angel" in that Alba's best moments are when she is acting the big sister. Whether dealing with escapees from Manticore or the kids in the hood, she connects with them. Her best scenes are with the kids and her dance class.
The fault with this movie is not with the cast or even with the writers, the latter being excused because if you want to make a good dance movie the story is not as important as the actual dancing, so you if you want to go back and pull out the Andy and Judy bit about the kids putting on a show, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem with "Honey" is that the dancing is not as great as it should be. Honey is involved in a bunch of music videos, all of which involve real hip hop stars including Tweet, Ginuwine, Shawn Desman, Jadakiss & Sheek, Rodney Jerkins, and Silkk. But the presentation of the dancing almost always is less than inspiring. The initial scenes of Honey in the club set up things nicely, but director Bille Woodruff, a popular video director, must have really been aware that this was a big screen motion picture because there are only bits and pieces of flair for most of the movie. The fault is not with the choreography of Luther A. Brown and Laurie Ann Gibson, but with the way Woodruff is presenting things. We never seem to be getting an entire dance routine, just bits and pieces. The best set piece is probably the one with Ginuwine and the kids, but all we get is part of a rehearsal and the camera angles and cuts do little to enhance our enjoyment of the routine.
Another part of the problem is that halfway through the film, Alba pretty much stops dancing as she turns into a choreographer. A great dance movie is predicated on the star doing the dancing, whether we are talking Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly or John Travolta and Patrick Swayze. Jennifer Beals can fool us with a body double, but that is not going to work twice, as Julia Stiles discovered. The proof of the pudding here is in the final credits, where we get to see a complete music video ("directed" by "Honey Daniels") and we are all sitting in the theater saying, "Yeah, we wanted to see more stuff like that!" A lot of people are going to enjoy this film, but most of those people are going to know that this could have been a lot better and that the fault here is not that of Alba but of Woodruff. How ironic that the credits for this film show us how what had been good could have been great.