Starring: Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union, John Leguizamo
Director: John Schultz
Apparently running out of mediocre 1970’s television shows to update into unfunny movies, Hollywood digs up a truly funny TV classic from the 1950’s, “The Honeymooners,” but sadly comes up with the same unfunny results. Directed by John Schultz (“Like Mike”), “The Honeymooners” stars Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps as Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, the two scheming but lovable characters from the original series.
On the surface, this version of “The Honeymooners” looks nothing like the original, apparent in the fact that the movie changes the lead characters to African Americans rather than the working class whites of the original series, played by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. Some purists may find this sacrilegious, but to this reviewer it seems appropriate. Ralph Kramden was an urban working class bus driver and it seems necessary, and almost rude, not to have this movie star African Americans. After all, when’s the last time you saw a white bus driver in the city?
Despite the superficial changes, however, the main themes in the movie do stay surprisingly close to the TV show. Cedric’s Ralph Kramden is still the same short-tempered, scheming blowhard that Jackie Gleason so brilliantly depicted, and Mike Epps seems to have the trademark Carney-esque intellectual ineptness down to a science.
If there is a weakness in this movie’s similarity to the TV show, it is that it is painfully watered down. In the original, Ralph and Alice seemed to always be one inch away from either kissing or getting into a brawl. There was certain believability when Gleason’s Kramden bellowed “One of these days, Alice…POW! Right in the kisser!” This new version doesn’t even feature that line, and certainly doesn’t come close to that kind of near spousal abuse, which was a hallmark of “The Honeymooners” TV show. In fact this “Honeymooners” movie is so PC that it could hardly be called “The Honeymooners.”
Whether this is a weakness or a much-needed change from the original can be debated till you’re blue in the face, but it’s pointless to do so. Obviously the TV show and this new movie are not going to have the same audience, so why bother? Standing on its own, this new film version just isn’t as funny as it should have been. Cedric and Epps make a good pair but the script gives them no help whatsoever. It’s simply awful. John Leguizamo as the dodgy Dodge and Carol Woods as Alice’s mother add some brief entertaining moments, but ultimately the movie feels flat.