Actress and comedian Mo'Nique comes off as sweet as pecan pie, but cross her and she'll cut your lame ass down with comebacks like: "You're so ugly, when your mama sees you she tells your daddy, 'I should have just given you head.'"

Her new movie, Phat Girlz is part screwball comedy, part polemic on our skinny-obsessed pop culture (amen) and part How Stella Got Her Groove Back dramatic fluff, all flavored with Mo'Nique's "I know you didn't just say that" attitude.

Unfortunately, the movie never really gets its groove on. It opens with a hilarious fantasy sequence of Mo'Nique surrounded by a pack of hard-bodied hotties, but from there the comedy is scattered among far too many and far too earnest attempts to make an inspirational, you-go-girl, public service announcement.

Mo'Nique is Jazmin, a department store clerk who's tired of the world revolving around "skinny bitches" (again, amen). She dreams of starting her own fashion line with clothes that don't make plus-sized women look like they were upholstered, but she gets thwarted by a cruel twit of a boss.

Her spirits are lifted when she wins a trip to a five-star resort in Palm Springs, and decides to take along her two best friends — twiggy cousin Mia (Joyful Drake) and frumpy Stacey (Kendra Johnson). Two Nigerian doctors also staying at the resort pursue the larger ladies, much to the shock of Mia. Jazmin's suitor, Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis), is so smokin' fine he made the ladies in the audience gasp on first sight.

But just when it seems like she's got everything going for her, Jazmin screws it all up with her lack of self confidence. This makes way for a diversion into a whole mess of "I've got to love me for me" schlock, including a climactic emotional breakdown scene that seems wholly out of place. Worse, the African medics get all Dr. Phil on the ladies, spewing out all kinds of hokey words of wisdom from the old country to help Stacey let loose, give Jazmin a shot of self confidence and inspire Mia to eat a sandwich once in a while. They lay it on a bit, well, thick.

Mo'Nique certainly packs more punch with her fist (seriously, she punches out several people in this movie) and her smart-ass mouth than she does with her stabs at dramatic realism. What Phat Girlz really could stand — aside from some production polishing — is more sass from Mo'Nique and fewer watered-down Oprah-isms.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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