“Dolemite Is My Name” is another stellar production from Netflix featuring a return to form performance from Eddie Murphy. His performance of Rudy Moore will certainly be the start of his career seeing a resurrection. Director Craig Brewer has a keen eye to detail, that makes “Dolemite” feel as if it is a blaxploitation film of that era. Premiering October 25th on Netflix.
I’ve never seen or let alone heard of Rudy Ray Moore until I had the pleasure of screening Netflix’s original film “Dolemite Is My Name”. Directed by Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”, “Footloose” and “Black Snake Moan”) and featuring the return of Academy Award Nominee Eddie Murphy (“Dreamgirls”). “Dolemite Is My Name” is another stellar production from leading studio Netflix. Combining the comeback of Murphy and the interest of who Rudy Moore really was, it should help “Dolemite” hit a high viewership once it hits the streaming platform on October 25th.
In the tradition of films like “Ed Wood”, which is the gold standard of the genre. Mixed with elements of “The Disaster Artist” and Eddie Murphy’s 90’s comedy “Bowfinger”. Brewer’s “Dolemite Is My Name” finds rich material in a story about an artist and filmmaker who refused to let anything get in his way of becoming a star. Despite having rich material, “Dolemite” is a fairly standard biopic. It’s a shame that the film couldn’t be crazier and more gonzo, to match the path of Rudy Moore’s career.
Working as a record store employee by day and an amateur stand-up comedian at night. Rudy Ray Moore became a sensation in the black community thanks to a series of “party records” which were self financed and sold under the counter at record stores across the country, which is how the great Redd Foxx became popular.
Having heard stories on the street from the homeless, about a kung-fu super-pimp named Dolemite. Moore would then create a character based on the urban legend, take filthy jokes from around him and make them his own. Rudy’s big breakthrough came when he and his buddies see a showing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s film “The Front Page”, directed by Billy Wilder.
While everyone in his group are put off by the unfunny jokes, that cater to the all-white audience. Rudy was more observant of the way movies of the time including “The Front Page”, were essentially segregated and featured no black actors. Rudy decides to make a blaxploitation film called “Dolemite” and giving jobs to black entertainers.
Starring as Rudy Moore, Eddie Murphy’s performance reminds us what a great entertainer he is. Eddie Murphy shares something in common with Rudy Moore, that as a performer he will try his hand at anything to please his fans. Murphy’s career was red-hot in the 80’s and has had an up and down flow ever since. Through recent years he has had to reinvent himself in ways similar to Rudy Moore.
It’s easy to forget how easily Murphy has made the transition from a breakthrough standup act to making films in the action, comedy and drama genres to his infamous family friendly comedies. Murphy himself is intensely likable, as is his portrayal of Moore as an easygoing, nice guy. When Murphy really turns up the energy, this is Murphy as his most energetic in years.
Eddie Murphy proves he’s still got it, and with his return to Zamunda in 2020 for the long awaited sequel, “Coming To America 2” (also directed by Craig Brewer) and with “Dolemite” premiering on Netflix. Murphy’s career maybe headed in the right direction again. I’m hoping this will be the start of a resurgence for the man. As far as performances go this is one of Murphy’s best and he gives it his all in a performance that could have easily been phoned in.
Also making a return to the big screen is Wesley Snipes, who I’m still not quite sure what he was going for in his portrayal of a semi-successful actor who agrees to direct Dolemite’s film, but his performance feels a bit all over the place, but his performance is never not interesting. While the supporting cast couldn’t be better as they are one of the years best ensembles.
Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have an amazing track record of writing scripts based on real-life stories about eccentric characters, from “Ed Wood” to “The People vs. Larry Flynt” to the Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon” to the Amy Adams starring “Big Eyes”. Alexander And Karaszewski are an encyclopedia of information about that era in Hollywood and of black cinema.
Craig Brewer is a great filmmaker and has a keen eye to detail, that makes “Dolemite” feel as if it is of that era. Brewer films it as if it is a blaxploitation film of that time period with accurate sets, costumes and props, even though sometimes it just feels like an “SNL” skit. Brewer relishes in the creative process as Murphy hasn’t been this alive in years. Netflix keeps pulling out the wins for their original content and “Dolemite Is My Name” is another win for the streaming service. Dolemite maybe his name but making great films is Netflix’s game.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 & 1/2 out of 5)