Honey (2003 film)
Honey is a 2003 American dance film directed by Billie Woodruff and stars Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Romeo Miller, Joy Bryant, David Moscow, with featured performances by Tweet, Jadakiss and Ginuwine and a cameo by Missy Elliott.
Honey Daniels holds down jobs as a bartender, a record store clerk and a dance teacher at a community center run by her mother in New York. Honey's dream is to make it as a renowned hip hop choreographer even though her mother presses her to teach ballet in an Uptown school.
When Honey hits the dance floor after her shift at the club she works at where her rival Katrina performs, the two are recorded as they try to out dance each other. When Honey and friend Gina leave the club, they encounter brothers Benny and Raymond street dancing with other kids from the neighborhood. Honey invites them to attend her classes at the community center, where they work together to inspire new dance moves. The video from the club catches the attention of music director Michael Ellis, who gives Honey a job as a backup dancer in Jadakiss' new video. Unimpressed with his current choreographer, Michael decides to let Honey choreograph the video. Before long, Honey is asked to choreograph for Tweet, Sheek Louch, and Shawn Desman.
Honey's new choreography career brings her money, fame and freedom, but at the same time takes her away from the center and the kids in the neighborhood. She continues to work for Michael and being given more choreography work, leading up to Ginuwine's new video.
Benny begins to get in trouble and Honey finds him sporting a fat lip. He is angry that she hasn't been around due to her new career and lashes out at her. She offers him a job as her assistant in the coming week for Tweet's video if he keeps himself out of trouble. Meanwhile, she convinces Michael to let her use the kids she teaches at the center as backup dancers in Ginuwine's new video she's been promised with a fresh take on his video theme. Since Benny has been out of trouble, BB (the drug dealer he works for) goes to Honey's apartment and threatens her. The barber who did Raymond's hair, Chaz comes along and intervenes in backing BB off. She begins to date Chaz and he inspires her to focus on what makes her happy and not the fame her career can bring. She finds an old store she can turn into a dance studio and puts down a hefty deposit.
Honey made plans to take Gina to Atlantic City for her birthday, but Michael tells her that they have an important meeting they can not miss. However on that evening, it turns out to be an exclusive Black and White party for them to network at. When Honey asks Michael for his phone so she can call Gina, his associates encourage him to follow her and he drunkenly hits on her. Honey slaps him, refusing his advances and leaves the party. Gina is furious when she sees Honey in the paper being kissed by Michael since she claimed it was work (not play) that kept her from her birthday celebration. When the day of Ginuwine's video comes, Michael shows up on set with Katrina and changes the video's concept back to the standard exotic cars and scantily clad females.
The kid dancers are heartbroken and Honey is angered at Michael's behavior. Benny starts working for street corner drug dealers and soon lands in juvy. When Honey visits him there, Benny refuses her help and insults her. As she leaves, Honey asks him how often his gangster friends come to visit and he is visibly saddened by her question realizing that his "best friend" Otis is the main reason that he is in there and none of his friends haven’t even bothered to visited him once. Benny also comes to the realization that Honey cared enough to come visit him. He begins to realise how Honey is disappointed in him for making bad choices in his life and not setting a good example for his little brother Raymond and also realises that he could do better in his life and achieve his dreams without committing crimes. Benny takes the time to understand that he has not only disappointed Honey, Raymond and his mother but he has mainly disappointed himself for living a life that can get him imprisoned for life or even dead.
Depressed, Honey is relieved when Gina renews their friendship. She had a realization that she was attempting to ride Honey's coattails and their friendship was worth more. Since the ruined Ginuwine video, the large choreography checks haven't been coming in and the remainder of the down payment needs to be paid or the store will go back on the market. She comes up with the idea to hold a dance benefit at an abandoned church and Benny (released from juvie) brings his dance friends to help prep for the benefit.
Michael has been hired to direct a new video for Missy Elliott. He pushes Katrina as the choreographer, but she doesn't want the latter. Missy reminds Michael that she had asked for Honey months ago and doesn't want anyone else to choreograph her video. He tries to convince Missy to just watch Katrina's dance, but she's not impressed. Missy calls Michael out for his arrogance and makes it clear that she will postpone the filming of her video until he fires Katrina and brings in Honey like what she asked. She also tells Katrina off that her dance moves are terrible and leaves. Michael crawls back to Honey and begs her to work for him. When she declines, he reveals that he knows about the dance benefit and offers to buy her the studio. She realizes that now that since she's no longer working for him, his artists are upset and want her back. She refuses both his apology and his help, saying she will pay for the studio on her own since she now sees her value. Before leaving, she tells Michael how selfish and arrogant he is and makes him realize that not only did his selfishness get Honey fired from her job but make her unintentionally upset her dance students who were hoping to star as backstage dancers in Ginuwine’s upcoming music video.
Gina talks to the bank manager, who calls some local arts community donors to attend. The benefit is a full house with Honey's parents, Benny and Raymond's overworked mother, Tweet and Honey's boyfriend Chaz in attendance. The audience is wildly enthusiastic about the performances of the talented kids. Benny's mother sees he wants a trouble free future and is proud of both of her sons. Honey's Dad brought her mother to the benefit as a surprise and for the first time, she sees that the dance form her daughter loves can give her all that ballet could. At the end, the kids bring Honey up to give her recognition for all she has done and the bank manager assures Honey that the building is fully funded.
Missy Elliott arrives as the benefit finishes and rushes in to finally meet Honey in person after berating her directionless driver for making her late. As the credits roll, we watch Missy introduce the R&B group Blaque to Honey at her new dance studio, The Bronx Dance Center to prepare them for their new video.
- Jessica Alba as Honey Daniels, a hip-hop choreographer
- Mekhi Phifer as Chaz, a barber, Honey's boyfriend
- Romeo Miller (credited as Lil' Romeo) as Benny
- Joy Bryant as Gina, Honey's best friend
- David Moscow as Michael Ellis, a music producer
- Lonette McKee as Mrs. Connie Daniels, Honey's mom
- Zachary Isaiah Williams as Raymond, Benny's brother
- Laurie Ann Gibson as Katrina, Honey's rival
A number of popular hip hop and R&B musicians, groups and producers play themselves in prominent cameos, including Missy Elliott, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Shawn Desman, Ginuwine, Rodney Jerkins, 3rd Storee, Tweet, and Blaque.
The film is inspired by the life of choreographer Laurieann Gibson, who was the film's choreographer and appeared on screen as Katrina, the main character's rival.
Singer/actress Aaliyah was reportedly originally cast as Honey, though the role was later recast to Jessica Alba due to Aaliyah's death in August 2001. However, in 2020, Billie Woodruff, director of the film, said "That’s incorrect. It was supposed to be Beyoncé. That’s been widely reported but it’s incorrect, [Beyoncé] couldn’t do it because of her touring schedule for her first album Dangerously in Love."
Honey was released to mostly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives film a score of 21% based on reviews from 115 critics, with an average rating of 4.2 out of 10. The critical consensus was "An attractive Jessica Alba and energetic dance numbers provide some lift to this corny and formulaic movie". Metacritic, based on 30 reviews, gives the film a score of 37 out of 100, signifying generally unfavorable reviews.
A. O. Scott of The New York Times was one of the critics to give the film a positive review, noting that it "brings out the wholesome, affirmative side of the hip-hop aesthetic without being overly preachy, although it will not impress anyone with its originality."
The film opened at #2 at the U.S. box office, earning US$12.9 million in its opening weekend, behind The Last Samurai. The final box office was $30.3 million in the U.S. and Canada and $31.9 million in other countries, for a total of $62.2 million worldwide.
Bille Woodruff, the director of Honey, also directed three sequels, the theatrically released Honey 2 (2011) and two straight-to-video sequels Honey 3: Dare to Dance (2016) and Honey: Rise Up and Dance (2018), each with different casts.