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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Honey 3: Dare to Dance (Blu-ray)
Honey 3: Dare to Dance (Blu-ray)
Universal // PG-13 // September 6, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 19, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Universal's direct-to-video strategy has been a fascinating one. While early efforts found relatively "of the moment" successes like Tremors and American Pie as their jumping off points, they've started really digging into their back catalog for anything with a recognizable brand name. The Jarhead "series" is particularly bizarre, and projects like Hard Target and Kindergarten Cop come off more like remakes than sequels (possibly inevitable when the original stars don't return). One of the slight outliers to this is the Honey series, all three of which have been helmed by the same director, Bille Woodruff. It's a shame, then, that the newest entry, Honey 3: Dare to Dance (or Hon3y, if you go by the opening credits), suggests this is more a case of something Woodruff views as easy to handle more than anything else.

Honey 3 stars Cassie Ventura as Melea Martin, an American going to college in Cape Town, South Africa, on a scholarship. She's preparing to od her final thesis, a dance reimagining of "Romeo and Juliet", but her scholarships run out in her final quarter, and she's put on academic suspension until she can come up with the funds. With some encouragement from her boyfriend, fellow dancer Erik Wildwood (Kenny Wormald), she returns to the Bijou, a dance theater where her mother performed, and convinces the kindly owner, Mr. Wright (Adrian Galley) to let her use the space to rehearse and stage a one-off performance that will hopefully both earn enough money to get her back into school, but also fulfill her vision of "Romeo and Juliet." All she needs is the right people, which include her best friend Nadine (Dena Kaplan), and Ishani Mfeke (Sibo Mlambo), a local girl whose dance moves have the edge that Melea knows the show needs, but who has a deep distrust of Melea's motives.

In a nutshell, the problem with Honey 3 is that it's clear Woodruff's only interest is in the dancing. No matter how many times I see it, it's always delightful when characters act like they're going to have a brawl and have a dance battle instead, and the world of Honey 3 is one in which everything is resolved through dance, so the movie is packed with dance sequences. In one dramatic moment, Erik, alone in his apartment, dances away some frustration by hopping on his dining room table, and I wondered if its dance strength was one of the deciding factors in him choosing that particular table. Most of the sequences have a thrilling and engaging energy, including the two most important numbers (the movie's kickoff sequence in a dance club, and the final "Romeo and Juliet" number), and an impressive amount of drama is conveyed through dance (one effective scene has Melea choosing between a stiffer dance and a sexier one, and the difference can be felt as well as seen). That said, there are only so many ways one can cut a dance sequence without splashy visuals, so while the athleticism always remains impressive, the cutting sometimes feels routine, and there is one sequence where Melea explains "Romeo and Juliet" to her cast, that feels like a weird sore thumb. The sequence is splashy without really gaining much (effects and body parts fly past the edges of the scope frame), and it's weird that there aren't inserts of this sort of effect during the final number to show how well it's working on the audience.

With the dance numbers Woodruff's main focus, that leaves the drama to suffer. Things conspire to get in the way of Melea, and then practically seem to resolve themselves -- the movie creates the illusion of drama without ever actually seeming like anything is going to go wrong. The main two frictions exist between Melea and Ishani, and between Erik and Ishani's friend Taj (Clayton Evertson), a famous musician, who Ishani likes but who seems to be paying more attention to Melea. The moment where Melea first convinces Ishani to drop her guard and come participate in the show is so perfunctory it seems bizarre they even bothered to set up the conflict in the first place, and while it's nice that Taj and Ishani take the initiative to resolve the problems between them that are creating problems elsewhere, there's still an "oh, you!" vibe to the resolution of all the interpersonal conflict that feels very convenient. In fact, the movie practically forgets about its own inciting incident, with Melea's problems with the school never mentioned again after the beginning of the movie -- we are just to assume they were resolved.

It doesn't help that most of the movie's cast comes off more adequate than impressive, although it seems possible that casting them for their dance skills over their acting skills was considered a reasonable compromise. As a physical performer, Cassie Ventura is dazzling, evoking the air of an athlete through her dance moves. As a performer, her frequently emotionless or neutral reactions to things contribute to the movie's toothless dramatics. Evertson also comes off incredibly pleasant, even when his character is meant to be a jerk. The two standouts are Kaplan and Mlambo, who inject their characters with a fun measure of attitude and swagger that makes them seem more rounded than some of the other performers. It also has to be noted that everyone, especially Wormald, really look like they're too old to be attending college. It's little quirks like this that dilute the effectiveness of the movie, likely made by a director who has a stylistic investment in the work, but not an emotional one.

The Blu-ray
Honey 3's cover design takes a pretty standard approach, combining a graffiti-like spray-paint style with a bold yellow-and-black color scheme that really catches the eye. The two-disc combo pack is housed in a Vortex eco-friendly multi-disc case (technically, the stack hubs inside can hold two discs each, although in this set they only hold one apiece), including both the DVD copy and the UltraViolet Digital HD code. The entire package slides inside a glossy, slightly embossed slipcover.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC (with the exception of one brief sequence framed in 2.39:1) and with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, Honey 3 looks and sounds pretty sharp on home video. Lots of these direct-to-video features have a tendency to turn out sound mixes that feel a little flat, but given that a dance movie is made by the pulsing beat and vibrant energy of the music, this track is nicely robust throughout the movie's many dance sequences, even if most of what it's doing is presenting a 2016 electronic dance song with high-def crispness. Dialogue is balanced nicely with the music, and the picture has that polished digital look throughout, with extremely impressive clarity and depth, as well as bright vivid colors and excellent fine detail. Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian DTS 5.1 tracks are also on board, as well as English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Spanish, French (Canadian), Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, traditional Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Thai, and Turkish subtitles are all on board. Phew!

The Extras
There are a number of extras on Honey 3, but almost none of them are interesting. A selection of deleted scenes (11:42) reveal an unnecessary subplot involving money, both for the sets and for the theater, and a number of small character beats. A set of extended dance sequences (14:22) are more interesting, but I had a hard time telling the difference between the longer versions and the ones in the film.

"Behind the Dance: The Making of Honey 3" (6:04) sounds like an overall BTS piece, but it stays true to the title and really only focuses on the development of the choreography between the film's three choreographers, and the blend of various cultures' style of dance on display. "South African Backdrop" (2:22) features some comments from the cast and crew about how beautiful Cape Town is and how much they enjoyed filming in the area. Finally, "Battle Dakota Club" (1:58) is a brief look into the movie's opening sequence, which takes place in a fictional nightclub. Why this sequence was singled out for its own little BTS piece, I have no idea.

The final extra on the disc is an audio commentary by director Bille Woodruff. Unfortunately, Woodruff is fairly quiet, with long gaps of silence between moments where he finds something on-screen to comment on. Bringing one of the cast members in to help him probably would've made for a much livelier track.

Honey 3 is adequate. Those who like dance movies might enjoy checking it out, but it's hard to imagine it begging for multiple viewings. The bonus features are also pretty bland. Rent it.

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