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The Honeymooners

  The Honeymooners
Alas, "Breakin' 3" was never
meant to be.

© 2005, Paramount Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Bus driver Ralph Kramden (Cedric the Entertainer) is a big dreamer, looking to play all angles and schemes to find instant wealth, much to the chagrin of his exasperated wife, Alice (Gabrielle Union). Always within earshot are Ralph's dilapidated apartment neighbors, Ed Norton (Mike Epps) and his wife Trixie (Regina Hall). When Alice desires to live in a house of her own, Ralph needs to quickly come up with cash for the down payment. This leads him and Ed on a series of madcap adventures (involving a racing dog, an underground train, and break dancing) as they navigate their way to fame and fortune, which always seems to elude them no matter how hard they try.

With Hollywood in the throes of remake fever, a film like "The Honeymooners" (IMDb listing) should come as little surprise. But the film does surprise, and in all the wrong ways. Adapted from the beloved 1950s Jackie Gleason television comedy, considered one of the best programs of all time, the new "Honeymooners" takes the generally Caucasian antics of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton and tries to stuff them into a traditional urban comedy, complete with Beyonce references and a hip-hop soundtrack. This begs the obvious question: why even bother using the "Honeymooners" name? They could've called this anything from "The Recently Married" to "The Period After a Wedding Ceremony," but the production felt they needed the "Honeymooners" connection. It doesn't make any sense.

The production even tries to capture the old "Honeymooner" feeling with opening titles presented in black & white and initial screenwriting that showcases a flustered Ralph beating on Ed and arguing with his wife. Not only does this look awkward, but it feels forced. Director John Schultz (the dreadful "Like Mike") is merely trying to appease the fans of the original show that might potentially sit through this abomination, while his true intentions for the picture start seeping into the film soon after the initial 15 minutes. Maybe my memory is a little hazy, but I fail to remember any booger jokes or gas siphoning gags in the Gleeson creation, which is what Schultz is trying to pass for comedy in his remake, that is, in between bits of crushingly unfunny slapstick. The final insult is a last-minute grab for audience sympathy with these characters. Maybe that's the funniest thing on display here: that the director would have the gall to get sappily dramatic with what is inherently a broadly pitched comedy.

Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps try as hard as they can to make this work. Well, not really Epps, who looks baffled by the film's PG-13 rating, and is unable to come up with one good punchline to match any of the nonsense he's subjected to onscreen. Cedric fares much better. The talented actor has the desire to fashion himself an African-American Jackie Gleeson-type blowhard, but the material routinely fails him, forcing the actor into pratfalls and screaming when I know Cedric is capable of much more. Cedric is also stymied by the simple fact that he has no chemistry with the bland Gabrielle Union, playing his beloved Alice, which often leaves Cedric breathless trying to make scenes come together.

Outside of a weird turn by Eric Stoltz as "The Man" (he must have a house payment past due), "Honeymooners" offers no surprises or laughs. Instead, this odd feature proves once again that Hollywood is capable of trashing any legacy, regardless of source material sanctity, in the quest to make a buck.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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