Comedy is a genre that needs to evolve with the times. What was funny in one generation might not be in the next. Funny men of yesterday struggle to stay current and fade out. But every once in a while, some make a return that you’ve been waiting to celebrate.
Eddie Murphy has done just that.
This review is spoiler-free.
Dolemite Is My Name tells the underdog story of Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy), a struggling artist who works to get his name out in 1970s Los Angeles. Unable to find success through the right channels, Moore creates the alter-ego Dolemite and finds success in stand-up, leading to a blaxploitation film in 1975.
Moore is a struggling record store manager and a part-time club MC with a stale stage act when we meet him, the dreams of ’70s Los Angeles. Hope finds a spark after a night of storytelling with local wise men. The story of an urban legend becomes his cocoon of evolution as Dolemite is born, becoming a hard-R act that leads Rudy Ray Moore to heights he couldn’t imagine. No matter how hard-R and filthy his acts can be, Rudy sees his tours and comedy albums as stepping stones to the big prize: movies.
His concept for Dolemite, as he sees it, has everything to attract a crowd: Boobs, kung fu, high-speed car chases, and tons of action. Basically, Dolemite has the elements of the entertaining popcorn flicks of today. And when you don’t have a budget, you have to pull some shenanigans and get the crew together.
A star is nothing without his crew and Moore’s is the most loyal that you’ve seen in a film in a long time. Including talent such as Titus Burgess, Mike Epps, and Craig Robinson, you are cheering on this ragtag group of dreamers. We also see the return of another star long too absent from the screen, Wesley Snipes.
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) makes the story wheels turn, steeping the sound and visuals in bright ’70s shagadelics, but also giving the movie time to breathe and to really get to know Rudy more. It’s really the performances that carry the movie: Snipes’ eccentric, fastidious actor-director D’Urville Martin; Keegan-Michael Key’s reluctant screenwriter Jerry Jones; and a breakout performance by Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, a comedienne who cuts through untruths with precision.
Murphy is the star attraction, bringing so much hope, hunger, and pure life force to the role the he makes you believe in every punchline, pelvic thrust, and misplaced karate kick. It’s surprising how parallel Moore and Murphy’s stories are: both were down and out, chasing the showbiz dream. While Moore was rediscovering it on screen, I was watching the actor portraying him reclaim the dream. Eddie Murphy proved he is still irrepressibly alive in this film. As you watch the movie, you can’t help but support Moore and know Ray will rise up to conquer.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
What are your thoughts about Dolemite Is My Name? Do you think Eddie Murphy is officially back in the spotlight?
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