Review: “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”

Veering wildly between heavy-handed melodrama right out of a soap opera, to raucous brash comedy along lines Martin Lawrence would be proud of, ‘Diary’ is a chaotic and muddled affair that barely feels coherent let alone genuine. Its a shame because taken on their own, each of these elements play as predictable but easy to enjoy diversions. Fused together subtracts from both aspects.

Starting off as a heavy-handed sudsy drama about a trophy wife thrown out by her abusive husband of 16 years (a surprise since they both look far too young), about 20 minutes in the film suddenly changes tone with the appearance of Madea, a trash-talking, gun-toting loudmouth mother figure played by creator Tyler Perry in drag. Whenever she appears onscreen the film’s tone shifts from serious drama to sheer “Big Momma’s House” slapstick.

At times it works whether it be Madea’s visit to the new trophy wife’s wardrobe or the more serious subplot about Brian’s estranged junkie wife on a downward spiral. Others just delve into predictable and dull directions such as a blooming romance with Shemar Moore’s blue-collar hunk or the third act injury recovery storyline. The acting is somewhat overdone and over the top, even during the more emotional scenes.

What’s needed here is a more experienced director. Darren Grant does a passable job but a veteran is needed to handle such schizophrenic material and one who could stand up to the likes of Perry and his no doubt strong demands. Madea is Perry’s most famous creation and yet its her that sends this film into shock. The story feels ill-suited to the character, yet without her you’d only have essentially a fun but painfuly predictable soapie. There’s an audience for this I’m sure but it’ll take those with a great sense of disbelief.