Lionsgate // 2005 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Neal Masri (Retired) // December 8th, 2010
Get ready to meet a real straight shooter.
The movie that started Tyler Perry down the road to becoming a one-man film industry comes to Blu-ray.
Charles (Steve Harris, 12 Rounds) and Helen (Kimberly Elise, For Colored Girls) are by all appearances the perfect couple. Appearances in this case are deceiving. Through her diaries, Helen reveals that their eighteen-year marriage has been a loveless sham for years. Charles is distant and cruel and, what's more, has a girlfriend on the side. When Charles coldly kicks Helen out of the house, she takes refuge with her grandmother, Madea (Tyler Perry, Madea Goes to Jail). With the help of a kind man and a cast of oddball characters, Helen learns some powerful life lessons and discovers inner strength she never knew she had.
Coming into this movie, I was completely unfamiliar with Tyler Perry's work. I know that, since this film, he has become a wildly successful writer/director. Other than that, the extent of my familiarity with his work boils down to the fact that I saw his cameo in Star Trek. So, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. is my first taste of Perry. What an odd movie this is.
I will say this for the film, it went a couple of places I was not expecting. About ten minutes in, I figured I could write the script in my mind before it actually happened. You've seen all this before -- the dutiful wife, the heel of a husband, the slutty girlfriend and so on. However, once Charles cruelly ejects Helen from their shared home, Helen's grandmother Madea enters the film. Destined to live on in numerous future Perry movies, Madea is at once this movie's most insipid and inspired creation.
What to make of the pistol brandishing, foul tempered, borderline criminal Madea? She seems transplanted from another film. The best I can describe her is as some strange hybrid of Flip Wilson's Geraldine character and Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son. At the beginning, this film seemed content to simplify and stereotype its characters along the lines of most other melodramatic romcoms or weepers. Then Madea takes the movie in an odd direction. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I wish I could answer that. She seems to be Tyler Perry's unique version of a Greek chorus channeling the director's more slapstick and lowbrow impulses. I'll say this for the Madea character, I certainly didn't see her coming.
Diary of a Mad Black Woman comes to Blu-ray with a better than expected 1080p image. Colors are strong while preserving a film-like appearance. The TrueHD DTS 5.1 sound is a tame affair as expected for a movie of this type. The surrounds are almost never engaged and the low end is there to enhance the film's music, and that's about it. Much more respectable is a pretty generous set of extras. There are two commentaries: one featuring Tyler Perry and another director Darren Grant (Make it Happen) and Kimberly Elise. A healthy dose of featurettes covering the making of the film, Tyler Perry's history, and the city of Atlanta give plenty of film background. Deleted scenes of negligible quality also round out the set. All in all, you get a fairly comprehensive set of extras that should give die-hard fans a good bang for the buck.
This movie attempts to be many things and, in overextending itself, doesn't seem to do any of them particularly well. Somewhere in this jumble of Christian morality, slapstick comedy, lowbrow humor, female empowerment and jilted woman revenge fantasy I'm sure there is a good movie (or several) waiting to get out. As it stands, this is just a mess.
This movie is not without its charms. The uniformly likable cast does what the material asks of them admirably. This earnest story with its themes of faith, family and forgiveness has a positive, life-affirming message. In what can be of flood of cynicism emerging from Hollywood, you can see why audiences looking for a drop or two of uplift would embrace this movie.
This mystifying blend of lowbrow sketch comedy and overblown drama really doesn't work (not for me anyway). For a great many devoted Tyler Perry fans, it seems to be just what the doctor ordered. All I can say is that you probably need to watch for yourself to decide whether it's your cup of tea.
Guilty, just don't tell Madea I said that.
Review content copyright © 2010 Neal Masri; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Galleries