The Honeymooners

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What is the point of turning a TV show into a movie but changing everything about it? Anyone who loves “The Honeymooners” does so because of Jackie Gleason, because of the nostalgic charm of watching a simple mid-’50s sitcom, because they first loved it as a child and enjoy revisiting it. Yet the big-screen version has changed the characters from white to black and set it in 2005 — which means it’s not “The Honeymooners” anymore; it’s just a movie about a bickering married couple. So why not just make a movie about a bickering married couple? Why call it “The Honeymooners”? That name won’t bring in larger crowds. Quite the opposite, in fact: Anyone who likes the TV show “The Honeymooners” will be avoiding this thing like the plague.

As well they should. Even for a non-fan such as myself, this is a dismal failure, a stupefying, unfunny waste of 90 minutes. It tries to re-create the over-simplified plots and larger-than-life characters of the original, overlooking the fact that those elements were distinctly a product of their era. A big-thinking schemer and dreamer like Ralph Kramden was amusing in the quaint days of 1955. In 2005, he comes off like a moron.

And the faithful sidekick/wacky neighbor character of Ed Norton? Who has faithful sidekicks and wacky neighbors these days? Even sitcoms don’t really use them anymore, let alone real people. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, the film re-creates the layout of the Kramdens’ cramped Brooklyn apartment, gives the characters most of the same catchphrases, and imitates the procession of dunderheaded ideas, lies and misunderstandings that comprised the plots of the original series. I’d wager there’s a whole season’s worth in here, with Ralph (Cedric The Entertainer) buying a relic train car, backing a racing greyhound, losing his and Alice’s (Gabrielle Union) life savings, sabotaging a dinner with Alice’s mother and accidentally bidding at a snooty auction.

I notice that Alice is a good deal less argumentative and complaining than her 1950s counterpart. Maybe they thought such a characterization of women wouldn’t fly these days. Or maybe they realized if she was too much of a pill, Ralph would have no choice but to say, “One of these days … Bang! Zoom! To the moon, Alice!,” and heaven knows you can’t go threatening to punch your wife in the movies anymore.

Ed (Mike Epps) and Trixie (Regina Hall) are the upstairs neighbors whose marriage is tranquil compared to the Kramdens’. Ed serves as Ralph’s whipping boy and loyal friend, while Trixie has no discernible purpose in the movie. Hey, Regina Hall. The good news is, we got you a part. The bad news is, you’re playing Trixie Norton in the misbegotten “Honeymooners” update.

Here is some sample dialogue, between Ralph and Alice’s mother (Carol Woods):

RALPH: Someday you are gonna push me too far!
ALICE’S MOTHER: The only thing that could push you is a bulldozer!

Comedy, ladies and gentlemen. Pure, unfiltered comedy, sculpted by a team of four screenwriters — men responsible for such films as “The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,” “Police Academy 2,” “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London,” “The Santa Clause 2” and “Big Momma’s House” — and directed by John Schultz (“When Zachary Beaver Came to Town,” “Like Mike,” “Drive Me Crazy”). It is every bit as bad as you would expect it to be — though, curiously, not as bad as it could have been, if they had included the fart jokes that surely existed in the earlier drafts. I mean, a modern comedy about a fat guy but no fart jokes? What’s up with that?

D (1 hr., 30 min.; PG-13, a little mild profanity, a little innuendo -- seems more like a PG to me, but whatever.)

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