Considering the stagy hokiness of Jackie Gleason’s classic CBS comedy The Honeymooners, it’s hard to criticize the new Honeymooners movie for exhibiting only a passing resemblance to its now-dated and unfunny source material. That said, there are still a busload of problems with John Schultz’s aimless adaptation, which casts Cedric the Entertainer as cantankerous bus driver Ralph Kramden and Mike Epps as sewage system worker Ed Norton in a series of slapdash comic vignettes revolving around Ralph’s inexhaustible supply of ill-conceived get-rich-quick schemes. Fusing at least six sitcom episodes’ worth of brainless plots into one laborious hour-and-a-half, it’s a shoddily constructed fiasco that deserves to be sent straight to the moon.
Retaining its small-screen predecessor’s central relationships—Ralph and wife Alice (Gabrielle Union) live to argue, Ralph loves to put down dopey upstairs neighbor Ed, who’s married to ditzy Trixie (Regina Hall)—The Honeymooners plods through a procession of idiotic incidents in which Ralph repeatedly squanders the family’s meager fortune on bizarre scams, and it speaks to the film’s lack of inspiration that the “funniest” moneymaking ideas involve selling a Y2K survival kit and pretending to be blind beggars. Still, one can barely blame the cast for such persistent missteps, as the genial Cedric the Entertainer and Epps gamely attempt to salvage this muck with affable Laurel-and-Hardy bickering, while John Leguizamo—chewing scenery more voraciously than Ralph and Ed’s racing dog Iggy gnaws on his favorite blue ball—adds a dash of bizarre, unpredictable insanity to the proceedings as shady canine trainer Dodge.
Unfortunately, any hope that recasting The Honeymooners with African-Americans would add a new wrinkle to its portrait of everymen trying to climb the socio-economic ladder is dashed by a dim-witted, disjointed script by the screenwriting committee of Barry W. Blaustein, Danny Jacobson, Don Rhymer, and David Sheffield. Despite their darker complexion, the new Ralph, Ed, Alice, and Trixie barely differ from their original Caucasian counterparts, and while one is thankful for the general absence of hoary stereotypes, this reimagining timidly skews toward race-neutral blandness. Nevertheless, there’s some perverse pleasure to be found in watching Eric Stoltz hammer another nail in his professional coffin as a villainous white real estate developer whose nefariousness is evident less from his business plans (he wants to buy the house Ralph and Alice pine for) than from his clearly evil appetite for egg-white omelets.