Honey

Dir: Bille Woodruff
2003
Yesterday I chuckled over a recent (?) Boondocks cartoon where Riley is asked to write a “what I did for my summer vacation” essay for school.
He turns in a page of paper completely covered by one phrase: “I KEPT IT REAL!”
“Honey” is all about keeping it real, but not as funny as Boondocks. In fact, the film treats its cliches with a straight face.
While it often feels like Jessica Alba is trying to channel Jennifer Beals from Flashdance, I couldn’t believe I was seeing a third act twist straight out of a Little Rascals or Andy Hardy film from the 1930s: Lets raise money for the youth center by putting on a show! Mmm, smell the mothballs on that one.
I also felt that a lot of what we were seeing was warmed over sentiments from the last 20 Jennifer Lopez videos. Never has a pop star sung so often about “keeping it real” and being just “Jenny from the Block” and other self-aggrandizing platitudes as Lopez, so much that I suspect she either a) absolutely doesn’t believe it and it’s just her “image,” or b) she has an incredible guilt complex about being so rich and famous.
That’s the sense on display here. Honey barely has time to sell out and be mean to her friends–she skips out on a friend’s birthday trip for a black tie party, but we’re shown that she didn’t know this going in–so we’re never worried about her not “keeping it real.”
Anyway, the previews show Alba all hoochied out with the midriff and lip gloss and this and the that, so is there a lot of that, really, for the furtive overcoat brigade? Nope, only at the beginning, then New York gets chilly and Honey wraps up.
Any other reason to see it? Well, Missy Elliot has a funny one-and-a-half scenes, but the preview shows 80 percent of that. The smallest of Honey’s young charges is also cute as the dickens and we get to see him try to dance. Honey also has a pug, but we get no pug reaction shots. Surely we could have had some pug head-cocking, maybe when Mekhi Phifer is trying to get his groove on (Mekhi Phifer is an appealing actor though, more than Alba, who doesn’t really invite us into her character). And the sleazebag video director guy who winds up getting bitch-slapped for wanting a “taste of honey” hurh hurh hurh, is called Michael Ellis, which I desperately want to be some scriptwriter’s reference to the similarly named Monty Python skit.
So, you get some early midriff, some 1930’s “save the schoolhouse” malarkey, a whole lotta product placement, a cute friend (Joy Bryant) who wears less than Alba, a righteous Mrs. Honey who wants her daughter to travel and broaden her horizons, but who also wears some frightful necklaces. But best of all, nearly everybody in this film, save Mr. Ellis, KEEPS IT REAL.
Addendum: There’s a silly part in the film where Honey finds choreographic inspiration from watching basketball players and girls playing jumprope. With the intensest look that Alba can muster, Honey starts trying out her versions of dribbling and jumping for the upcoming dance. “Hey!” the film says, “This is how artists work!” I am now annoying the wife by studying her mundane movements (chin in hand and the other hand using the mouse) and coming up with my own hip-hop choreography.
Also: If you follow the link to www.jessica-alba.com, you wind up at the Dennis Kucinich campaign site. Ewwww.

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