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Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look: 0%
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Pretty Crappy: 30%

3 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Honeymooners, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"It somehow manages to be worse than it looks."
1 stars

On the DVD of Steven Spielberg’s underrated comedy “1941,” co-writer Bob Gale tells about how he and partner Robert Zemeckis wrote the parts of two minor characters–a blowhard with a fear of heights and a goofball equipped with a ventriloquist’s dummy that found themselves atop a Ferris Wheel looking for Japanese subs–specifically to be played by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney as a homage to the similar characters that they played to perfection on the immortal sitcom “The Honeymooners.” As Gale explains it, the script was offered to them but they supposedly disliked each other so intensely at that point that neither one would do it if the other was involved. Ever since I saw that interview, I always assumed that would be the saddest thing I would ever see or hear that could be connected to one of the most delightful and hilarious television shows ever created. Alas, having seen “The Honeymooners,” the feature film adaptation of the show, I am afraid that Gale’s anecdote must now be bounced down to the #2 slot.

Ever since the vogue for bringing old television shows to the big screen began about 20 years ago, we have been inundated with one lousy example of the genre after another–I suspect that the multiplex in the deepest bowels of Hell is showing the likes of “Lost in Space,” “Scooby-Doo” and “The Brady Bunch” on a permanent loop and we won’t even discuss the films based on “SNL” sketches in deference to those with weaker constitutions. However, while those films were bottomlessly awful, they were based on source material that wasn’t exactly that strong to start with–face it, all they did with “Lost in Space” is make something just slightly crappier than the original. “The Honeymooners,” on the other hand, is one of those rare shows that was so perfectly conceived and executed that they remain as fresh, funny and timeless today as they did when they were first broadcast a half-century ago. No matter what the age, sex, race or nationality of the viewer, the adventures of unrepentant dreamer Ralph Kramden (Gleason), loyal nut Ed Norton (Carney) and Ralph’s tough and pragmatic (yet loving) wife Alice (Jayne Meadows) as they struggled to make a better life for themselves against all odds captured the basic elements of the human drama (and did so hilariously) in a way that everyone could relate to. By comparison, the feature film version tries to improve things that have only been working for fifty-odd years and fail so miserably at it that it seems as if the film was made by the only people in the world who have never actually watched an episode of the show.

The basic premise is the same–Ralph (Cedric the Entertainer, who, after the likes of “Johnson Family Vacation,” “Man of the House” and this effort, may as well commence the search for a new name) wants a better life for himself and Alice (Gabrielle Union) and, with the “help” of Norton (Mike Epps), tries to achieve that with a variety of get-rich quick schemes. This time around, Alice wants to move out of their cramped apartment in a nearby duplex that a sweet little old lady has just put on the market. She figures that if she and Ralph, along with Ed and his wife, Trixie (Regina King) pool their savings together, they can afford the down payment and keep it out of the hands of the evil developer (Eric Stoltz, who seems to be hoping for an attack by the same creature that kept him out of commission for most of “Anaconda”) who wants to turn it into an apartment building. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t realize is that Ralph has used a chunk of the money in order to finance the purchase of New York Mets shirts in anticipation of their World Series victory.

When that doesn’t pan out–shockingly, the Mets actually live up to their end of the deal–he tries a series of increasingly desperate schemes to raise the money in time–one scheme has him buying an underground railroad car with the hopes of refurbishing it into a tour bus without figuring out how to get it up to the surface without any track. Eventually, Ralph and Ed rescue a greyhound dog from the trash and discover that he is a fast runner. Before you can say, “Hey, wasn’t this actually a ‘Simpsons’ episode?”, they hook up with a sleazy so-called dog trainer (John Leguizamo) and plan to race the pooch to earn the money for the house before the meanie developer can get his hands on it. That’s right, they have made a film version of “The Honeymooners” and a good portion of the film is dedicated as to whether or not a dog can win a race.

Since the four lead actors are black, unlike their television counterparts, there may be the assumption among some of you that I object to the film because of the race of the characters. My problem is not with the color of their skin–they could have been played here by the four whitest people on Earth and I still would have objected to the entire conceit of the film because it fails to display any sense of what the characters so watchable in the first place. Even though they existed in 22-minute chunks of situation comedy, the original actors brought astonishing amounts of depth to the characters–we found ourselves laughing less at the situations they found themselves in and more at how they reacted to them. We knew that while Ralph may have talked like a macho brute, he was a pussycat beneath the bluster and Alice’s ability to recognize that about him was what kept her by his side despite his patently unbelievable threats and hare-brained schemes. We knew that while Norton might have looked and acted like a lunatic–he may have been TV’s first completely surrealist creation–he was also well-meaning and the best and most loyal pal that anyone could have. In this film, however, Ralph is simply a moron, Norton is even dumber and Alice’s decision to stay with her husband is absolutely inexplicable. (As for Trixie, all I will say is that her most memorable line comes when she threatens to cut up the sleazy developer.)

Instead, we get the kind of dreadfully dumb humor that could have appeared in any run-of-the-mill comedy, at least one that wasn’t particularly concerned with actually entertaining viewers. We get to see Ralph and Norton break-dancing in an effort to earn spare change. We get a pitiful riff on Art Carney’s classic golfing bit, this time staged in a pool room with all the panache and grace of your Uncle Larry after a few drinks. And since Norton is, as you will recall, a sewer artiste extraordinaire, we get plenty of scenes in which people stumble about in filthy water for no particular reason. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I laughed twice during “The Honeymooners.” The first time involved Leguizamo’s claim that he raced greyhounds for “the Shah of Argentina,” which struck me as amusing. The second occurred during the end credits, where I learned to my amazement that the filmwas partially shot in, of all places, Ireland.

As I said, the original “Honeymooners” episodes contain the kind of humor that is utterly timeless–Paramount could have simply released four or five episodes into theaters and I guarantee that they would still play like gangbusters with audiences. As for this sorry excuse for a film, an army of writers and performers has taken a perfect show and turned it into a perfect waste of time and source material. Of all the half-assed, get-rich-quick schemes to have ever been associated with “The Honeymooners,” this film is by far the most shameful and the least entertaining.

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originally posted: 06/10/05 00:03:35
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User Comments

8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Funny Flick!! 5 stars
7/14/06 David Cohen One of these days Hollywood, Pow, right in the kisser 1 stars
6/07/06 Ashley Hinz Below average, pretty darn bad. 2 stars
3/03/06 John Aster Habig What's f#@$ing wrong with everybody the cast embodied the characters 5 stars
8/02/05 Ray This is crap at its best 1 stars
7/20/05 Chris Garbage 1 stars
7/07/05 William Vollmer some people might enjoy it. I couldn't. 2 stars
6/20/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Trixie and Ralph were poor as can be. PC crap is for morons 1 stars
6/14/05 Fred Another cultural rip-off 1 stars
6/13/05 Obi Wan Jackie Gleason would turn over in his grave! 1 stars
6/11/05 Ed Norton I waited 50 years for this piece 'o crap 2 stars
6/11/05 Jackie Gleason To the moon with this piece of shit. 1 stars
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  10-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Nov-2005



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