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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Honey (2003)

"Let's break it down, alright?"
- Honey (Jessica Alba)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 22, 2004

Stars: Jessica Alba
Other Stars: Lil' Romeo, Mekhi Phifer, Joy Bryant, David Moscow, Zachary Williams, Missy Elliott, Lonette McKee, Anthony Sherwood, Laurie Ann Gibson, Ginuwine, Shawn Desman, 3rd Storee, Jadakiss & Sheek, Tweet
Director: Bille Woodruff

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content and some sexual references
Run Time: 01h:33m:53s
Release Date: March 23, 2004
UPC: 025192329227
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B+B B-

DVD Review

Jessica Alba made a name for herself playing the genetically-enhanced lead character Max in the short-lived sci-fi Fox series Dark Angel, in which she took on bad guys and wore fashionably sexy black outfits. In Honey, her first major feature film lead role, Alba casts off the quasi-serious tone of her television past and steps full-force into a by-the-book genre film from director Bille Woodruff that harkens back to the good old days of those Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney Strike Up the Band, "let's put on a show" films of the 1940s.

Alba plays Honey Daniels, part-time bartender, part-time record store employee who is torn by her narrow-focused mother's desire for her to pursue a ballet career, and her own natural love of hip-hop dancing. Guess which wins out. But that's not really the point here, and like so many films in this genre that have come before, we know just what hurdles will arise, what moral dilemmas will be presented and that ultimately somehow the power of music and dance will prevail. That's a tried and true formula, simplistic as it is, and Woodruff doesn't veer from the path at all in his presentation.

Honey's dream to teach hip-hop to young kids (she does so in a rundown inner-city community center) is put on the line when she catches the eye of Michael Ellis (David Moscow), a big-time hip-hop music video producer/director with obvious ulterior motives (it's a genre requirement). Ellis turns his new discovery into an instant star (natch), and of course the kids are the ones who suffer, characterized by street-tough Benny (Lil' Romeo), who ends up falling in with the neighborhood drug dealer when Honey starts living large. Along the way, friendships are threatened, true love is revealed and adversity is overcome by tightly choreographed hip shaking and belly undulating.

This is the kind of film where it's fun to take guesses at what predictable plot point will occur next, and what chunk of stilted dialogue will be uttered, and my 12-year-old daughter and I played this game throughout our viewing of Honey. We were literally cracking ourselves up with our pinpoint accuracy, but somehow that didn't really take away from the fact that this is a solidly constructed bit of mindless and entertaining genre filmmaking, meaning that it covers all of the required bases. Yes, it has all of the expected speedbumps and moral impasses, and some of the dialogue is laughable (David Moscow's utterance of "Bitch, how you gonna play me like that?" is a killer), but Woodruff has given Honey a glossy veneer that is as innocently likeable as it is predictable.

The PG-13 rating (for "drug content") seems a little harsh—I've seen more explicit drug references on The Simpsons— and there is little here that would be considered too racy or mature. Even the incessant dancing, for all of its vaguely sexy gyrating, is comparatively tame. It needs to be noted that Honey is a throwback to a kind of film that gets made every few years or so, and some of these entries, all made within the preordained guidelines, are marginally good (Flashdance, Footloose), some are inexplicably popular (Dirty Dancing), while some are horribly misguided (Glitter).

The big dance number will cure all ills, but we know this before the opening credits have even finished.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Universal has uncorked a largely appealing looking transfer for Honey, issuing it here in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (a separate full-screen disc is also available, so be sure to check the bottom of the front cover). Aside from a few minor instances of edge enhancement, this disc sports a nearly pristine print (a handful of small specks were evident), with much of the film awash in a deep, golden color that periodically softens some of the detail slightly.

Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Spanish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: As you might expect from a film built around hip-hop music, the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track offers plenty of clean, thumping bass lines. What it doesn't offer is much in the way of rear channel activity, save for a few isolated club sequences, and so the majority of the film's audio is focused on the front three channels. I was kind of surprised that the mix wasn't more enveloping, especially with its abundance of music. Still, dialogue is clear and discernible, with some minor directional pans here and there.

Spanish and French 5.1 surround tracks are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Skulls III, The Rundown, Peter Pan
16 Deleted Scenes
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jessica Alba, Bille Woodruff
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music videos
Extras Review: Director Bille Woodruff and Jessica Alba provide a very relaxed full-length, scene-specific commentary track, one that is so relaxed it is not really that interesting. The two have a good rapport, and the mood is light, but the content is equally fluffy. Plenty of yucking it up transpires, and the bulk of their track is giggle-filled.

Next up are 16 Deleted Scenes (33m:14s), including an expanded opening sequence and a couple of scenes that better reinforce Honey's ballet roots. None of these are pivotal either way, and there removal was no doubt designed to keep the finished product at 90 minutes. Fans of Outtakes (04m:05s) get the chance to see Alba spit out pizza or Missy Elliot repeatedly blow one of her very few lines over and over again.

Behind the Groove (10m:55s) is a typical EPK, filled with puffy chatter and no real substance. Make Your Move (08m:54s) features Honey choreographer Laurie Ann Gibson in an instructional segment designed to teach wannabe Honey's how to bust a move. Despite some initial concerns ("You're supposed to be able to do that?"), my 12-year-old daughter gave it a shot, had a blast, and decided it would be fun for her friends to try next time they come over.

In the Mix with Blaque (06m:23s) goes unnecessarily behind-the-scenes on the making of their music video I'm Good, and reinforces the belief that a lot of musical performers have nothing to say. Last but not least, music videos from Blaque, Jadakiss & Sheek, and Shawn Desman are included.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles (English, Spanish, French).

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Nothing new here storywise, but it is put together better than most "let's put on a show" genre films, and there is such a sweet, innocent tone to the whole thing that it is tough not to get sucked in.

Plus, from a pure eye-candy standpoint, Jessica Alba dances around a lot in belly-shirts and low-slung pants.


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