ninth symphony films - movie reviews

HONEY (2003)

DIRECTOR  -  billie woodruff

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  105 minutes

RELEASED  -  5 december 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $18,000,000
honey - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from honey at

buy the dvd from honey at

about an inner-city girl who has dreams of becoming a video choreographer.

began filming in september, 2002.


picture from honey

picture from honey

picture from honey


one out of four possible stars

While one might immediately draw comparisons to the 2001 musical debacle, Glitter, it's not difficult to see that both these films make bad movies look good. From hokey dialogue to unconvincing performances, Honey looks to be the result of some hard working dance enthusiasts whose only real successes are to be found in the choreographed musical numbers that pepper the film. And those dance sequences are only entertaining if one is inclined to enjoy the modern, hip-hop influenced shaking of today's rap artists and their scantily clad women. Which, if you're a fan, the dancing is impressive, lively, and enthusiastic.

But in this 104 minute drama, the scenes where people are simply talking and going about their daily lives are innocuous and cliché. We've seen this story before (and even if you haven't, the trailer reveals the entire movie anyway) and while the phrase, "we've seen it already" can apply to most films, the filmmakers just weren't up to the task of creating a fresh look for this tired story. There are just a lot of things missing from this film that could have turned it into something of a bold statement on the precarious situation of inner-city youth.

Jessica Alba has some talent in dancing, but she's not as polished as her back-up dancers and you can spot her stunt-dancer occasionally. And unfortunately, her dialogue is so atrocious that it's quite difficult to believe in her character. Playing "Honey Daniels," Alba is just so incredibly forthright and honest from the get-go, that her character has nowhere to go emotionally or consciously over the course of the film. She's sweet and darling to begin with and she ends the film in the same vein. She has no vices and no moral dilemmas to contend with. Though she's supposed to be the protagonist and the character the audience should be rooting for, she doesn't discover anything about herself that she (and we!) didn't already know.

Mekhi Phifer plays Alba's love interest, "Chaz," and his talent is completely wasted on a character that has nothing to do but stand in front of the camera and look good. He has a few meaningful things to say, but his character is chronically under-used and lacks the depth needed to create some juicy conflict for the story. And the stunningly beautiful Joy Bryant, who plays Alba's best friend, "Gina," gives one of the most natural performances of the film, though her character could have had a little more bite as well. Save the token nasty guy, "Michael Ellis," played suitably by David Moscow, everyone in the film is entirely too agreeable.

She's featured strongly in the trailer, but doesn't play a major role in the film, but singer Missy Elliot's cameo appearance is particularly entertaining and though much of her dialogue seems improvised, her three short scenes are welcomingly comedic. Possessing impressive vocal talents, Elliot might have also done well as a stand-up comedian. A few other vocal artists make appearances as well and, since their talent lies in the art of giving an entertaining performance, singers Ginuwine and Tweet (and a handful of other pop-culture faces) add some believability to the film.

Elements such as cinematography are influenced heavily by the techniques used in current music videos, but since the film deals so closely with that subject, the camera work seems entirely suitable for the story and is well-done. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with hip-hop and rap songs and on its own would probably be a worthwhile investment for fans of the genre as there is a good variety in the intensity of the songs (it's not just one nameless rap song after another; there's more diversity than that).

While the "message" in Honey is probably a valuable one for young audiences, too much of the film is littered with stunningly bad dialogue and even children might recognize the lack of originality and spice in that arena. A film like this just can't survive on dance sequences alone. There has to be an emotional and affecting story to go with it, to make the scenes where nobody's moving interesting to watch. But there is a serious lack of real conflict and danger affecting the characters. Since the dance numbers are entertaining, the predictable story could have been forgiven if the dialogue had been anything other than absolutely retched. That element is really where the film falls on its face and Alba, Phifer, and none of the cast can make up for that deficiency.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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