The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, The Honeymooners... Cedric the Entertainer is the first to concede that the trend of adapting classic TV shows into films has turned into a joke.

But then, of course, the star of The Honeymooners — in theaters today — immediately defends his big-screen update of the beloved

'50s sitcom about the everyday lives of a bus driver, a sewer worker and their long-suffering wives.

"It can seem like a big clich&#233 when you think about all the films coming out that used to be TV shows," Cedric says, "but this particular one makes sense to redo. All of the themes of the show still make sense today."

Did the comic feel any qualms about filling the shoes of "The Great One," Jackie Gleason? "Everybody knows as soon as you say [Ralph Kramden], you think Jackie Gleason and the way he played him," says Cedric, himself a TV veteran of The Steve Harvey Show and his own Cedric the Entertainer Presents. "I was looking forward to introducing those characters to a brand-new audience more than I was worried about being the best Jackie Gleason. I was going to be Cedric the Entertainer."

The pressure was on, though, for Cedric to be a convincing leading man, since he's best known as a scene-stealing costar in films like Barbershop, Intolerable Cruelty and Be Cool. "In a starring role, you have to really pay respect to the overall story, and make sure that you're driving the story and that your character is believable," he says. "You can't really just go for the joke. When you're scene-stealing, that's what you're coming to the movie to do. You rock it, get big laughs and let everybody say, 'Oh, man, you was the guy...!"

Cedric and costar Mike Epps did enjoy a brief break from the shackles of plot and script in their scenes with John Leguizamo, who plays a shady dog trainer hired to turn Ralph and Ed's stray greyhound into a champion racer. "We had more fun once Leguizamo came on," Cedric recalls. "John had a character that was totally made up [and not from the TV show]. He was able to ad-lib, and as comedians, [Epps and I] were like, 'Oh, hell no!' He was able to pull us off the page because he wasn't tied to the show."

Cedric also had fun with another departure from the small-screen original: Since the audience actually gets to see Ralph on the job, Cedric had to obtain a temporary license from New York's transit authority to drive a city bus. "I try to go around and pick up people every now and then," he winks. "You just never know when you'll need a few extra dollars."