Picks and Pans Review: Diary of a Mad Black Woman

updated 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris, Tyler Perry, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson

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When a philandering, filthy-rich lawyer (Harris) in Atlanta coldly dumps his wife of 18 years (Elise), she asks piteously, "What am I supposed to do?" She slowly figures out the answer, building a new life for herself based on churchgoing and the love of a good man (Moore) in this moralizing dramedy, which careens frantically between soap opera, broad yuks, Bible-thumping and gauzy romance. Holding it all together, though, is an accomplished, from-the-heart performance by Elise as the fired-up heroine. In a sea of stick figures, she is an island of sincerity.

Diary has been adapted for the screen by playwright Tyler Perry, who also pops up in three supporting roles, including one in buxom drag. Perry's plays have been wildly successful in recent years, primarily with black audiences. It's easy to see how his mix of humor, amour and old-time religion might have broad appeal, but next time he attempts a stage-to-film transfer, judicious pruning is in order. (PG-13)

DRAMA/COMEDY

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