on December 05, 2003 by Michael Tunison
An extended music video wrapped around a preachy after-school special, "Honey" aims to add a few new gyrations to the "Fame"-style inspirational dance drama--alas, we've seen the same basic steps performed with more inspiration and storytelling conviction countless times before. Suffering from a painfully predictable narrative and characterization as deep as the average MTV spot, this lightweight bump-and-grinder owes star Jessica Alba and her megawatt smile for most of the minimal energy it's able to generate.

Working her considerable charm while flashing as much as a foot and a half of exposed midriff, Alba (TV's "Dark Angel") plays Honey Daniels, a squeaky-clean big-city kid who divides her time between struggling to break in as a hoofer/choreographer and teaching hip-hop dance at a youth center run by her equally selfless urban-crusader parents. Actually, Honey's struggling lasts all of about five minutes before a top video director (David Moscow from "Just Married") spots footage of her doing her thing at a club and launches her on a series of high-profile gigs that could take her to the top. Unfortunately, her quest for fame soon comes into direct conflict with her more socially responsible work helping at-risk local kids (including teenage hip-hop star Lil' Romeo) to boogie. Which of her dual passions will get top priority?

Between this too obviously loaded dramatic situation and the flaw-free conception of Honey herself--more of an idealized role model than a living, breathing character--there's little room for the storyline to follow any but the most formulaic of paths. First-time feature director Bille Woodruff, a veteran of Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears videos, keeps the pace bopping to a fast beat but doesn't manage to give the piece any real emotional momentum until the inevitable "Let's put on a show!" finale, which succeeds in a wide-eyed earnest way that only the most hard-hearted of viewers could completely resist. Starring Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Joy Bryant, Lil' Romeo and David Moscow. Directed by Bille Woodruff. Written by Alonzo Brown and Kim Watson. Produced by Marc Platt and Andre Harrell. A Universal release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for drug content and some sexual references. Running time: 93 min

Tags: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Joy Bryant, Lil' Romeo, David Moscow, Directed by Bille Woodruff, Written by Alonzo Brown, Kim Watson, Produced by Marc Platt, Andre Harrell, A Universal release, Drama, idealized, role model, conflict, club, dance, inspirational

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