"Honey" is a film working against itself; it's a flashy picture, with a visual style that's mostly appealing. The dancing, while not jaw-dropping, is certainly still good enough to be appreciated. Jessica Alba ("Dark Angel"), an underrated talent who often finds herself in the midst of less-than-great productions, is a sassy standout. Yet, at the same time, "Honey" is working with a screenplay that's both cheesy (see the sequence where Honey figures out new dance moves based on watching a basketball game and kids jump rope) and dated, making the film seem like an 80's picture with a 2003 look. The characters and story are so cliched that it's almost charming - but not in a positive way.
Honey stars Alba as Honey Daniels, a 20-something who works in a record store during the days and a bartends at a dance club at night. Somewhere in the middle there, she also manages to teach dance at a community center. One night, she's spotted by a talent rep, who passes along a video of her dancing to Michael (David Moscow), a video director. She's picked to get into the auditions for a new video, then he hires her to choreograph other videos. Soon enough, she's left her neighborhood and has found herself attending parties and hanging out with celebs.
But - and get out your checklist - will Honey fall for a barber from the neighborhood (Mekhi Phifer, who deserves better than this kind of role)? Will she realize that the director's motives aren't what she thinks they are? Will she be in time to save her neighborhood center from the wrecking ball? Will Jessica Alba reveal what the hell she did to get those abs?
All these questions (well, not all) and more will be answered predictably. Still, there's a sweetness and somewhat naive nature about the film that somehow makes these faults ever-so-slightly forgivable. Directed by music video director Bille Woodruff, "Honey" throws in a fair amount of visual flair, but thankfully, never really takes its visual style into overkill (although there are some shots scattered throughout that seem like music video staples). The dancing is fine, but I never felt like it was anything I haven't seen on MTV. The performances are also pretty enjoyable; while Alba's not the greatest actress, she has enough heart to mostly make up for it. A couple of brief scenes are completely and utterly stolen by rapper Missy Elliot, who turns in an incredibly funny cameo.
"Honey" is pretty forgettable stuff - awfully cliched, predictable and downright cheesy at times - but it has some fun moments, enjoyable performances and enough sweetness to make it mildly watchable.
VIDEO: "Honey" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This was a pretty good effort, although a few little instances of problems added up to taking the presentation down a notch. Sharpness and detail were often fine, although some scenes in dimly-lit interiors could appear a little softer than the rest of the movie.
A few minor instances of edge enhancement were another issue, while very slight compression artifacts were visible in a couple of scenes. Print flaws were kept to a minimum - a scratch here, a speck there - but hardly anything most will notice. The film's color palette varied greatly, from the more subdued look of the neighborhood to the brighter palette of the clubs. Throughout, the picture appeared to portray colors accurately, aside from a couple of moments where they looked a tiny bit smeared.
SOUND: "Honey" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is generally fine, as the hip-hop and R & B music are presented with tight bass backing and nice spread across the front speakers. The surrounds could have been put to better use, though: they kick in mildly for some musical reinforcement during the club scenes, but the soundtrack's presentation of the music could have been a little more enveloping. Aside from the music, the rear speakers really don't have anything else to do. Dialogue and music remained clear, with no distortion or other faults.
EXTRAS: A commentary from director Bille Woodruff and actress Jessica Alba is the main supplement included. The commentary is pretty lightweight, with both spending most of the time joking around (one background actor is called a "Vulcan", as she does look like one; Alba tells a story of being confronted by a bunch of upset extras who didn't know she was the lead), some funny stories from the set and a few stretches of inane comments. Still, the duo do throw in a few interesting tidbits about working with the dancers and shooting in Toronto.
Moving on from the commentary, there's a 4-minute reel of outtakes that include some really hilarious flubbed lines and more Missy Elliot. "Behind The Groove" is a 10-minute "making of" featurette that's largely promotional. "Make Your Move" is a brief instructional dance piece, hosted by the film's choreographer. Music videos included are: Jadakiss and Sheek: "J-A-D-A"; Shawn Desman: "Sexy" and Blaque: "I'm Good". There's also a brief featurette about the Blaque video. The "deleted scenes" section offers no less than 33 minutes of deleted/alternate/extended scenes, presented in a reel. Rounding out the supplemental section are cast/crew bios and DVD-ROM features. As with most Universal titles these days, a few minutes worth of forced trailers play before the main menu is shown.
Final Thoughts: It's sappy, cliched and dated, but "Honey"'s heart and sweetness still keep it from being another "Glitter". Universal's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality and a handful of enjoyable supplements. Alba fans may want to try a rental.