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Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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Set on the mean streets of the Bronx, Honey tells the epic tale of one woman’s quest to teach inner-city children how to dance. Full of contrivances, bland music, and ho-hum dancing, this jar of Honey arrives in theaters well past its sell-by date.

Honey Babies

Alba's on an epic quest to get inner city kids to dance
Alba’s on an epic quest to get inner city kids to dance

Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba, Never Been Kissed) is a triple threat: She’s a savvy bartender at a trendy nightclub, a friendly clerk at a record store, a hot hip hop teacher at the youth center, and she possesses one of the phattest midriffs in the Bronx. OK. That’s four things. But who’s countin’?

A quick study of dance moves, Honey needs to see it just once and Shazam! she’s got it down like carpet. A genius of body language, Honey can find inspiration in the mundane accidental fall by a dance student, the rhythmic gyrations of kids playing pick up basketball in the ‘hood, or even the commonplace motions of girls jumping rope on the sidewalk.

The girl’s got soul and her soul never shines brighter than when she’s around kids at the youth center. Honey’s not interested in seeing Paris, London, or anything outside the boroughs of New York. She’s got her sights set on improving the lives of children through the magical healing power of dance.

As fate would have it, her dreams are in reach when today’s hottest music video director, Michael Ellis (David Moscow, Just Married), spots her shakin’ her caboose at the Overdrive nightclub. It’s a heady 90-minute rise from dance extra to star dancer to choreographer for the likes of Ginuwine, Judakiss, and Missy Elliott.

But such success comes with a price. Michael wants Honey to be his private dancer. Honey, however, doesn’t play it like that. Her rejection of Michael offers the film’s solo moment of heavy drama, when billiard balls symbolically go colliding across the table at a ritzy Manhattan shindig.

Got Honey?

There’s an overwhelming feeling of artifice running throughout Honey. The aerial shots of Manhattan are nicely done. The footage of streets signs in the Bronx set the stage. But there’s something missing. The film lacks genuine Bronx soul and attitude.

Simply put, Honey is a movie full of posers. When Honey talks, she sounds like California honey served off a silver spoon until she says, “I teach hip hop at the centah.” That’s Alba’s woeful Bronx accent saying she works at the local youth center. Only with words like “flava” and “centah” does Alba display something akin to a Bronx brogue. Nonetheless, she does manage to spout lines such as, “All G’ed up like Ginuwine, same hair, same bling,” with a certain amount of conviction.

Adding to the sugar-coated presentation, the kids (featuring Lil’ Romeo) are stunningly cute and clean cut in a “we’re really bad” kind of way. And, as they walk down the street, everything seems in its place. There’s no smell of Bronx markets in the air. No rattle and hum of cars honking and running red lights. (During the end credits, which roll alongside a Blaque music video, the truth is revealed: Honey was shot in Toronto.)

One thing that at least appears genuine is Alba’s dancing. But that’s not saying much. There’s far more innovative dance work on display on a sunny summer Sunday morning in Battery Park. What Honey and her crew do is supposed to be a lot of razzle dazzle, but everything looks like it’s been copied out of an *NSync video.

Honey Sez…

Beautiful, ambitious, and naïve as all get out, Honey tackles the ultimate goal: to move her dance studio out of the condemned youth center to someplace nice, or at least someplace with a floor. Rather than succumbing to Michael’s offer of easy bucks as choreographer to the stars, Honey pulls out the ol’ Brady Bunch trick and puts on a benefit performance to raise funds for a new dance center.

In an odd sort of way, Honey is a highly entertaining round up of clichés as it offers a solid dose of life’s lessons not seen since ABC’s After School Special.

Here are some of the lessons learned:

  • Hip hop can’t take you to the places ballet can (according to Honey’s mom, anyway)
  • Every guy’s a director when he wants some booty
  • Promises don’t never matter
  • Finding something that makes you truly happy is better than something that makes you rich
  • Skills are gonna take you places
  • You first need to trust and believe in yourself
  • Make every experience educational
  • It’s pronounced “centah.”