‘Mad Black Woman’ too busy to be too good

Robert Taylor

I was in the mood for a good comedy when I sat down to watch Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I’ve had to put up with Oscar-bait drama and chick flicks taking up every spot at the local multiplex too long and just wanted to unapologetically laugh my ass off.

Apparently something was amiss because I got more chuckles out of Cursed when I saw it later that day.

This surprise box office hit started off promisingly enough. Kimberly Elise stars as Helen, a woman whose attorney husband has had two children with his mistress and yells at Helen every chance he gets. One day she arrives home to find her belongings helpfully loaded onto a U-Haul by her soon-to-be-ex. (He’s moving in with his mistress.)

Why didn’t the cheating bastard (Steve Harris) leave her clothes on the sidewalk or burn them? Well, Helen needs to immediately meet the man of her dreams so as not to bog down the picture with sad moments, and that man is the driver of said U-Haul. (But isn’t the point of U-Haul being able to drive your own stuff around? Never mind…) The guy is sweet, cute and looks a lot like Shemar Moore from “The Young and the Restless.”

Elise had been building up a sympathetic, enjoyable character, and I was hunkering down (wow, I haven’t used that phrase before) for the film to follow through, but when the broken-up bride shows up on her Grandma Madea’s doorstep, the movie goes so off the rails I found myself staring in disbelief. Did I walk into the sequel to Big Momma’s House by accident?

Grandma Madea is the kind of character who would upstage any movie she’s in. She’s played by Tyler Perry (that’s right, a guy) as a cross between a water buffalo who has just been injected with a large amount of steroids and Miss Piggy during that time of the month.

Her dialogue reminds me of a Hitler-esque dictator and beloved Muppet Animal trying to form a cohesive sentence. She enjoys wielding shotguns and destroying furniture with a handy chain saw she keeps on hand for such emergencies.

At this point I was taken aback by the sudden change in tone, but I decided to try to enjoy the movie from the different perspective. There were a couple chuckles adrift all the noise and chain saw massacring, but then I was faced with yet another abrupt change in tone: The movie gets religious.

Helen has a chance to get back together with the cheating bastard and examines her beliefs in reformation and forgiveness.

She feels the need to take Harris back because of her faith and to give the filmmakers a handy dandy way to create some suspense so that Helen and the U-Haul guy can get back together at the end.

I love it when a film can use religion in a movie and use it well enough to sell it as something other than sugar and sap (Signs or A Walk To Remember, for example, are not sugar and sap), but here it is a shameless ploy to keep two characters apart.

I can understand why this movie is a big hit: It’s an “I am woman, hear me roar” tale that has grass roots, religion and family subplots to fall back on, so it should appeal to every woman in the country.

But there is too much stuffed into a movie that doesn’t understand tone, substance or the difference between acting and overacting. My advice is to save your money and rediscover My Big Fat Greek Wedding, another comedy with a long title about a woman with an eccentric family, only that one is good.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].