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I expected to see lots of bare midriffs, gyrating bodies and camera angles straight out of MTV in this film and I did. (No surprise since this is the directorial debut of long-time music video maker Billie Woodruff.) But I wasn't planning on finding morsels of storyline cached between sweaty dance routines set in a stereotypical Bronx neighborhood.
A gifted dancer, Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba) would rather teach hip-hop at the local youth center while she waits for her big break than pursue the ballet career her mother (Lonette McKee) envisions. After all, a girl with drive, perseverance, great moves and a body like hers can't help but be noticed by more than just the neighborhood barber (Mehki Phifer) -- and so it happens.
One night after coming off her shift as a bartender in a local club, she is spied on the dance floor by the scout for an ambitious, young director. Duly impressed, Michael Ellis (David Moscow) gives Honey a chance to audition as a backup performer. Acing that, she soon finds herself on center stage, caught up in the whirl and glitz of the moneyed music industry. Her fresh, street-inspired dance moves earn her the job of choreographing routines for artists like Tweet and Ginuwine.
With her heady, new schedule, she has little time left for the youth (Lil' Romeo, Zachary Williams) who inspired her to teach or the girlfriend (Joy Bryant) who encouraged her to dream. However her awareness of daily struggles, abusive homes and controlling drug lords in her borough makes her eager to help where she can. Pitching an idea to use some of her former students in a soon-to-be-shot video, she wins the kids a chance to show their moves.
But her shot at success (and theirs as well) evaporates as quickly as it came when Honey refuses to give in to the sexual whims of a high-powered music executive.
Sent back to the streets, she reevaluates her goals and discovers her passion in life is much more than just hip-hop.
While dance scenes monopolize the screen time, Honey's desire to make a change in her community is admirable. More than just volunteering at the center, she has a vision for interrupting the destructive cycle that shackles so many lives. Inspired by the humble efforts of everyday people like her mother and a local businessman, she puts her talents and experience to good use.
Given the narcissistic and self-centered attitudes being peddled today, parents and older teens may find Honey a sweet opportunity to discuss the kind of influence ordinary people can have in changing lives.
Honey is rated PG-13: for drug content and some sexual references.
Cast: Jessica Alba, Lil 'Romeo, Joy Bryant