Universal // 2011 // 111 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 21st, 2012
"An inspiring story of courage, dedication, and the will never to give up."
Dance and film have a long and fruitful history together. One of the first subjects that Thomas Edison put in front of his camera was Ruth Dennis dancing in a skirt outside. Since then, we've seen everything from blockbuster musicals to avant-garde cinema combine human motion with the movement of film. Maybe we can trace the genre to the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story, but certainly after break dancing became a thing for people to do in New York City, filmmakers have been taking the basic story of the sports melodrama and melding it with the aggressive "battles" of street dancing. The result is a formulaic confection that lives and dies by the personality of the dancers and the strengths of their moves. Honey 2 is no exception, offering earnest storytelling and compelling dance moves, though its appeal is not likely to be wide.
Really, this has next to nothing to do with the first Honey, but Honey 2 tells the story of Maria (Kat Graham, The Vampire Diaries), a young dancer who just got out of juvenile detention. All she wants to do now is dance. If she puts together a good crew, she thinks she can take on the best group out there, 718m and win the championship on the show Dance BattleZone. Of course there's the requisite love interest and crazy ex-boyfriend, but you don't need me to tell you that.
I won't pretend to be a connoisseur of contemporary dance as practiced by the kind of crews shown in Honey 2. So, I won't pretend that Honey 2 has the greatest choreography or dancers of all time. However, from what I can see everybody on display brings their "A" game, and perhaps more importantly for fans of this kind of thing, there are lots and lots of dance sequences. This is not a film that teases the audience with a brief number at the beginning and a final battle at the end. Nope, because the characters are young people (who naturally want to dance all the time), it seems like there's a dance sequence of some kind every few minutes. So, irrespective of how involved you're feeling in the characters or the story, there's a sweaty dance spectacle that comes up on a regular basis.
I can't believe I'm saying this about a direct-to-video sequel to an eight-year-old flick that has next to nothing to do with its predecessor, but Honey 2 does not feel like a cash-in film. Direct-to-video sequels are not the place to go to find earnest performances and sincere filmmaking, but Honey 2 has all the heart of the first film in any franchise. It's not perfect (see below), but everyone involved seems to care that they're making the film rather than just picking up a paycheck. When you're watching a film you otherwise wouldn't care about, seeing that kind of commitment goes a long way.
The quality of Honey 2 (Blu-ray) is a mark in the film's favor. The 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is excellent throughout. Detail is strong, black levels are consistent, and colors tend to pop of the screen in a pleasing way. The whole thing looks a bit digital, but I doubt Honey 2 was going for a grainy, filmlike appearance anyway. The sound, on the other hand, is blow-the-doors-down. If you've got neighbors who make too much noise, keep a copy of this Blu-ray next to the player so that you can blast them with the deep, deep bass of this DTS-HD surround track. I can't remember the last time I heard bass this fluid and smooth being used in a film. Just as importantly, the bass doesn't overwhelm the rest of the mix, so dialogue stays audible. There's also a solid use of the stereo field and the surrounds, providing a solid atmosphere throughout.
Fans of the film are also going to enjoy the extras. We get ten deleted or extended scenes that include extra character moments and other odds 'n' ends trimmed for time. There are also number of dance sequences presented in a fuller form than they appear in the film, giving fans another 15 minutes of dancing to watch. Next up are three featurettes that focus on the making of the film, how it compares the previous Honey, and a discussion of the different kinds of dance we see in the film. This set also includes a second disc with a DVD version of the film and a Digital Copy.
Honey 2 is also formulaic crap. I don't mean that in a bad way, necessarily. Fans who come looking for some attractive dancers busting some sweet moves will get what they paid for. However, certain films are able to transcend their sports-genre trappings to become cultural touchstones; just think of The Karate Kid. Honey 2 is not one of those films. When sweet movies are not being busted, the acting is shaky at best, though it's hard to blame the actors with dialogue this bad. The characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes, and the plot does very little that anyone who's seen more than two sports films couldn't predict. The film is likeable enough, with no egregious faults, but that's not enough to win over viewers who want something other than pretty dance sequences.
The extras are pretty extensive for a DTV sequel, but even more dance footage would have been appreciated. I think most people who watch the film watch it for those moments, and seeing more dancing from more angles would have been appreciated. Also, director Paul Woodfuff's commentary is a bit disappointing. His stories are great, but there's too much silence on the track. Considering the passion that seemed to go into this film from the actors, having one or two of them on the track as well would have greatly helped.
I doubt it will change anyone's life, but Honey 2 is a well-meaning dance sequel. It's got decent enough moves that pop off often enough to keep dance fans happy, though anyone looking for more than a few cool dance-offs will probably be disappointed.
Honey 2 is guilty, but still sweet enough.
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SH)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy