The classic television show The Honeymooners has been not so much updated as aoftened and sweetened. The original, half a century later, is fresher and more contemporary than this stale marshmallow of a remake.
The appeal of the original was its grittiness. The low-budget sets and grainy black and white images suited the story of the bus driver with more heart than brains, whose get-rich-quick schemes always backfired and the wife whose acid commentary could etch glass.
Half a century later, Alice (Gabrielle Union) and Trixie (Regina Hall) have jobs (they are waitresses). The big ideas Ralph (Cedric the Entertainer) comes up with include such contemporary notions as a Y2K survival kit and a fanny pack. But the movie, produced by Cedric and his co-star Mike Epps (as Ed Norton, the sewer “specialist”), can’t quite bring itself to go to the comic edge the way the original did, in an era when a “To the moon, Alice!” threat, even an empty one, is no longer tolerable.
All that leaves is a lackluster series of skits with about enough laughs to fill a movie trailer and outtakes over the credits that are more entertaining than anything that came before. Eric Stoltz is a bland bad guy and a weak attempt at mother-in-law humor starts poorly and goes downhill. In an odd meta-moment, when Ralph says he is going to his Lodge, Alice asks whether he thinks he is Fred Flintstone. Of course the Flintstones in general and Fred’s Buffalo Lodge in particular were somewhere between a tribute and a rip-off of the original “Honeymooners” and Ralph’s Raccoon Lodge.
It is a nice thought to give us a chance to see how Ralph and Alice first meet each other. But that very beginning sets us off in the wrong direction because it establishes their relationship in a way that suffocates any chance to locate the comedy in the frustration and disappointment of the original characters.
It’s an affront to our memories of the classic series, but the more serious crime is the poor use it makes of five supremely talented performers, including John Leguizamo as a dog trainer (among other things). Cedric and Epps go off in a zillion different directions trying to get the money for a down payment on the duplex of Alice’s dreams, and some of them are very funny (they breakdance in retro outfits that make Cedric look like Rerun from “What’s Happening” and there’s a clever joke about what men and women talk about). Leguizamo’s dialogue has some bright spots (“I started with nothing and I got most of it left!”). But it feels like a series of jokes, not a story. The pacing sags and it feels endless. This one doesn’t go to the moon — like Ralph’s bus and Ed’s sewers, it goes in the wrong direction and just gets stuck.
Parents should know that there is some crude humor (reference to “ho’s,” Ed tells Ralph he saw Alice naked, etc.). There is comic peril, but no one gets hurt. Characters smoke and drink.
Families who see this movie should talk about why the house was so important to Alice and how Alice and Ralph could have communicated better to prevent some of their problems.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original series as well as better movies by Cedric (The Kings of Comedy — for mature audiences), Hall (Malibu’s Most Wanted), Union (Bring it On, and Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet).