Honey (2003) ** 1/2
Directed by Bille Woodruff;. Written by Alonzo Brown & Kim Watson. Photography, John R. Leonetti. Editing, Mark Helfrich & Emma E. Hickox. Music, Mervyn Warren. Production design, Jasna Stefanovich. Produced by Marc Platt & Andre Harrell. Cast: Jessica Alba (Honey Daniels), Mekhi Phifer (Chaz), Joy Bryant (Gina), Lil' Romeo (Benny), David Moscow (Michael Ellis), Lonette McKee (Mrs. Daniels), et al. A Universal Pictures release. 94 minutes. PG-13.
To the readers of these lines. The reviews of "Honey" average a rating much lower than mine. In fact, my "pleasure rating" is ***
I admit that I am not really conversant with hip-hop and music videos, notably those made by this film's director whose first feature this is, and have no grounds for comparisons. But I do find "Honey" to be a nice, sweet movie.
Honey, its title and very central character is Jessica Alba. I had never seen her before. She is pretty, has a great body and collagen lips which rival those of Angelina Jolie.
Honey is introduced as a bar-tender in a club packed with vigorously dancing clients. The club does not discriminate against its tiny number of white members. That's nice. The absence of Caucasian blonde chicks is even nicer.
The presumably amateur are impressive in their flexing of bodies, gyrations,, acrobatics and such. Honey, when she takes to the floor,, is even more skilled.
We soon find out that her elegant mom wants to steer Honey to the better things in life, namely ballet. But the daughter's heart is in hip-hop --which she also teaches.
Honey is "discovered" by white customer Mike Ellis, a director of music videos. When she visits him at work, within seconds she steals the rehearsal, within minutes she also becomes Mike's main choreographer. Her exemplary -and provocative -dancing, her instructing others, are made to seem spontaneous but are indubitably well-practiced and rehearsed. It's only a movie after all.
In Honey's solo demonstrationss and in ensembles, it's all impressive. Hip, hip hurray! for hip-hop!
Honey is 22 and has artistic imagination, as when she observes basketball players and translates their movements into hip-hop. She is also attached to youngsters who learn fast and whom she wants to have their own show.
I stop my plot (?) descriptions here. Let me only mention that Ellis would like to bed down Honey. He spells it out at a chic gathering (in he Hamptons) of Important People. When Mike's sexual advances to Honey get turned down, he sabotages and fires our heroine.
Talking of heroin without the "e" the movie contains the obligatory references to it; has the obligatory love affair (with nice barber Mekhi Phifer); the obligatory loss of quarters for rehearsals and such. But most of this is not heavy or over-stressed. Later, all's well that ends well.
The film is an unpretentious job that may not break any records or plow virgin lands - but does have amazing vigor and its own type of charm. It deals warmly with African-American culture-not "Sub-Culture," a term often used paternalistically term -and sometimes haughtily.
My guess is that word-of-mouth will prevail over reviews and that the movie will find a large public.