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Lions Gate presents
Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)

"Rip it!"
- Madea (Tyler Perry)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: July 06, 2005

Stars: Tyler Perry, Kimberly Elise
Other Stars: Steve Harris, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson
Director: Darren Grant

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references, some violence)
Run Time: 01h:56m:47s
Release Date: June 28, 2005
UPC: 031398175568
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- FA-A- B

DVD Review

I didn't know a thing about playwright Tyler Perry before the theatrical release of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and, after finally seeing this debacle, I wish I had never heard of him. He must have a huge following though, as the success of his plays (I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Madea's Class Reunion, and Madea's Family Reunion, among them) propelled this to a $21 million first place opening weekend at the box office. Despite horrid reviews, positive word-of-mouth about the film's themes of redemption and inner strength enabled it to make over $50 million during its theatrical run, against a $5 million budget, making it one of the most successful films of 2005 so far.

Amazingly billed as a comedy, Diary of a Mad Black Woman is one of the most difficult films I've ever had the misfortune of watching. Fifteen minutes into the film, it's easy to see just how big a mess this project is. After a bit of dinner party footage, we immediately get a feel for just how cruel the so-called humans in this film are. In consecutive scenes we see rich lawyer Charles kick his wife, Helen, out of his car so he can go meet his mistress, and Helen visiting Charles at his office, where she meets his mistress and one of their two children. This is just the start of the ridiculous cruelty, as the next scene finds Helen waiting at their mansion for Charles on the night of their anniversary, only to literally be kicked out of her home by him so his mistress and their children can move in. Not that people in the real world can't be cruel, but these actions are simply preposterous, especially without any police or other law enforcement intervention.

Also working against the film is the depiction of Charles (Steve Harris) as the embodiment of male evil and Helen (Kimberly Elise) as the weakest woman I've even seen in a movie. However, these characters are tame compared to the most despicable, disgusting character to hit the scene in quite some time, Helen's grandmother Madea. This chainsaw-wielding, gun-toting, nonsensical oaf of an older woman (played by Tyler Perry himself, who is very much a man), takes a film that is crashing and burning from the first reel on, and makes it unwatchable for the rest of its nose dive.

There are times, including Helen's visit to her mother (Cicely Tyson) in a nursing home, where it seems as if the film might finally find its footing and maybe even become a semi-pleasing viewing experience. Then just when things start going well, Madea makes another appearance and this train is derailed once again. I can't think of another film where a single character has been such a destructive force, and hopefully there won't be another instance like this in quite some time.

When Madea isn't polluting the screen, things begin to heat up between Helen and a driver/blue-collar worker named Orlando (Shemar Moore). The point of this relationship is to show Helen finally finding her true love and getting her life back in order, but their relationship is the ultimate in melodramatic sappiness.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any more out of hand, a key character is shot and critically injured, snapping the melodrama meter right off and taking us into Million Dollar Baby territory. At this point, most viewers will probably want to just throw in the towel and give up on Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and who can blame them? Those who can make it through the entire two-hour running time (although it seems much longer) can tell their friends that they just might have seen the first comedy/drama/right-to-live/revenge/horror/abuse film ever made.

I haven't even mentioned the nearly unwatchable sequence that occurs in the final act. This church scene has seemingly every character in the film who has redeemed themselves suddenly singing hymns and one of them even partaking in an "It's a miracle, I can walk" moment. There's absolutely nothing wrong with showing the part that someone's religious beliefs plays in turning their lives around, but the way such redemption is portrayed, with the amazingly obvious use of clichés, is just poor filmmaking.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: F

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and this transfer is very impressive, with sharp, detailed images throughout. The colors are spot-on, with deep blacks, and realistic fleshtones, while shadow and contrast levels never falter. There's only a few instances of grain and a couple of sequences where a slight shimmer effect is noticeable, but these aren't enough of a distraction to bog the overall presentation down.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, with the former being the easy choice due to its increased fidelity and wider dynamic range. Directionality is also used effectively, along with an aggressive surround presence, while the dialogue is always clear and easily decipherable.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Crash, Akeelah and the Bee, Rize, Tyler Perry Collection
2 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Tyler Perry
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: The extras collection is surprisingly large, beginning with an audio commentary track by Tyler Perry. It's no surprise that the main focus is about the film version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but Perry does spend some time talking about his other plays and the part that Christianity plays in his stories.

A pair of featurettes are up next, with Reflections on Diary serving as a brief introduction to Diary of a Mad Black Woman, during which he discusses the religious message of the film. You Can Do It...It's Electric! is a dance clip with the instructions for the various moves displayed on the screen.

Two documentaries are also available, including a Making of Diary..., which is 20 minutes of interviews and on-set footage with a lot of talk about Tyler Perry and his previous works. Perry appears in character, which means we are unfortunate to get another dose of Madea. Who is Tyler Perry? is pretty self-explanatory, incorporating cast interviews with footage from his plays.

There are also a collection of trailers (including one for The Tyler Perry Collection), and a pair of scenes that are classified as Outtakes.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

From the mind of Tyler Perry comes what is sure to be the worst film of 2005 (if not the first decade of the 21st century), Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The audio and video presentations are this DVD's saving grace, and for those who, after seeing this debacle, still care about the brains behind the project, there are some Perry-centric extra features for your viewing pleasure.

 


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