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With: Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Steve Harris, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry, Lisa Marcos, Tamara Taylor
Written by: Tyler Perry, based on his play
Directed by: Darren Grant
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references and some violence
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/18/2013

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

Faith-Based and Foul

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Diary of a Mad Black Woman is an obscenely hypocritical comedy-drama that climbs high on a rickety soap box to loudly preach Christian values, then turns around to cheer on its wronged-wife heroine as she takes cruel revenge against her once-abusive husband -- after he becomes crippled and helpless.

But the movie is mired in one-dimensional characters, stereotype humor, cheap sentiment and simplistic life lessons long before it trips over its insultingly disingenuous double standards.

Thirty-three-year-old Kimberly Elise (who looks 26 at most) plays Helen, a gorgeous, gutless doormat whose cartoonishly evil, ultra-wealthy defense-attorney husband of 18 years (was she married at age 15?) throws her out of their mansion so his gold-digging mistress can move in.

Despite years of his cheating and emotional abuse, Helen is somehow completely blindsided by this turn of events, but even though her husband (Steve Harris) "alienated me from my entire family" and no mention is ever made of her having any friends, her recovery and inevitable rediscovery of self-worth is a contrived, naive, absurdly easy fairy-tale affair.

She moves in with her gun-toting, ghetto-sassy granny (played in bad-wig and pendulous-breasts drag by screenwriter Tyler Perry) and septuagenarian sex-maniac uncle (also played by Perry in bad make-up -- more on him later), gets a job as a waitress, and learns to stand on her own two feet with the selfless, unwavering, Harlequin-fantasy adoration of a hunky, blue-collar Mr. Wonderful named Orlando (Shemar Moore).

Orlando takes things slowly because he understands her trust issues. They date for several soft-focus, montage-sequence months without sleeping together because he's a "good Christian man," as Helen writes in her voice-over diary -- a narrative crutch used by inexperienced director Darren Grant to skip over showing any of Helen's struggles or growth. And Mr. Wonderful is barely even dismayed when Helen disappears from his life without explanation, abandoning her newfound independence to play nurse to her still-callous ex-husband when he is shot and paralyzed by one of the gang-banger criminal clients who made him rich.

It's at this point that devout, church-going Helen, who apparently never stood up for herself once in her entire life, begins giving as good as she once got until her ex cracks and begs for her forgiveness. If she had taken him on when the man still had all his faculties, and bested him because she'd grown, and learned, and bettered herself, and could now stand up to him, that would be admirable -- and would have made for a good story.

But the way Mad Black Woman expects the audience to applaud as this weak woman takes advantage of her now-weaker abuser is just about the least Christian thing I can imagine. Yet after all this, she is rewarded by a reunion with her oh-so-understanding new love in a scene blatantly ripped off from the finale of An Officer and a Gentleman.

Writer Tyler Perry, who adapted the movie from his own play, seems to think any appalling behavior is OK as long as you believe in the power of Jesus (and only Jesus, as evidenced by religiously bigoted lyrics in the gospel-music soundtrack). And apparently Perry just can't get enough of himself either, as evidenced by the utterly extraneous (and time-dragging) subplot in which he plays yet another character -- a relative of Helen's who is in crisis because his wife is addicted to crack.

Although Diary of a Mad Black Woman begins with its contrivances and mixed morals somewhat balanced by good-hearted, passably funny humor and Elise's sympathetic performance, the fact that Helen, despite being truly obtuse, is the only (and barely) fleshed-out character soon becomes obvious.

In its last two acts, the picture degenerates into such a shallow, contemptible crowd-pleaser (the sneak-preview audience whooped throughout) that its painfully blunt message that faith can fix anything (all stories are wrapped up in one miracle-inducing gospel-choir church scene) comes across as more of an artificial plot devise than an endorsement of religious devotion. So ultimately, Mad Black Woman fails even on its own terms.

Best Buy Co, Inc.