Stung by a string of showbiz failures, floundering comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Academy Award nominee Eddie Murphy) has an epiphany that turns him into a word-of-mouth sensation: step onstage as someone else. Borrowing from the street mythology of 1970s Los Angeles, Moore assumes the persona of Dolemite, a pimp with a cane and an arsenal of obscene fables. However, his ambitions exceed selling bootleg records deemed too racy for mainstream radio stations to play. Moore convinces a social justice-minded dramatist (Keegan-Michael Key) to write his alter ego a film, incorporating kung fu, car chases, and Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), an ex-backup singer who becomes his unexpected comedic foil. Despite clashing with his pretentious director, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), and countless production hurdles at their studio in the dilapidated Dunbar Hotel, Moore’s Dolemite becomes a runaway box office smash and a defining movie of the Blaxploitation era.
What We Thought:
I saw someone say that Dolemite Is My Name is The Disaster Artist for Blaxploitation films and honestly, there’s no better comparison. The Disaster Artist showed the world what a nightmare the making of The Room was thanks to its enigmatic writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau. Rudy Ray Moore might not have been as mysterious as Tommy, but he was equally as driven and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Dolemite Is My Name starts with the lows in Moore’s life, but thanks to that drive and his want more out of life attitude, he became a cult star and legend in the urban community.
Dolemite Is My Name is one of my favorite films so far this year for many reasons. First, Eddie Murphy is back baby! I grew up on raw Eddie Murphy, cussing, Axel Foley, Prince Akeem Eddie Murphy. Over the past 25 years fans got PG-13 Eddie Murphy. He did Doctor Dolittle, The Nutty Professor, Daddy Day Care, Shrek and more. And sure the Shrek franchise is fantastic, but it’s not the Eddie Murphy I wanted. Eddie Murphy swears more in this movie than he did in his past 20+ movies COMBINED. Wise cracking, in-you-face Eddie Murphy will always be my favorite and after seeing this, I can’t wait for Coming 2 America now.
Besides the return of old school Eddie Murphy, the rest of the cast is also hilarious. Keegan-Michael Key plays the “straight man” to Murphy’s “wild card” and sounds like he’s doing his President Obama voice throughout. As the man given the task of writing the film (within the film), Key takes the more traditional route and insists on having a proper story with meaning. Of course Murphy will win out and the movie they make is utterly ridiculous (in the good way) and Key finds he enjoys the chaos. If Keegan-Michael Key didn’t steal the film then Wesley Snipes certainly did. Snipes plays the only character with actual movie making experience and only comes aboard because he’s offered the chance to direct the film, something he wanted. Like Key, he’s also a “straight man” opposite Murphy, but unlike Key, he doesn’t enjoy his experience which leads to a hilarious moment when the picture wraps.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph gets big laughs as does the rest of the supporting cast of Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps and more. It was surprising to see an almost fully grown up Kodi Smit-McPhee and there are some great cameos I won’t spoil. And if you think you need to have seen any of the Dolemite films or any Blaxploitation film to enjoy this, you’re wrong. Sure knowing what this is poking fun at or making reference to might enhance your enjoyment level, but if you go into this not knowing anything about this type of film genre, you should still find yourself laughing at an over-the-top sex scene or laugh-out-loud kung fu scene.
I can see Dolemite Is My Name being in my top 10 for 2019. I had a lot of fun with it and it’s a great throwback to comedies I grew up on. Yes there will be people who hate the film because they can’t just enjoy things, but screw’em. If you like Blaxploitation films, if you grew up on 1980’s and early 1990’s Eddie Murphy or just like seeing movies about movies or even underdog stories, then this one is for you. With director Craig Brewer working with Murphy on Coming 2 America, that film now skyrockets up the list of films I’m highly looking forward to.
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Produced by: John Davis, John Fox, Eddie Murphy
Screenplay by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Snoop Dogg, Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Tip ‘TI’ Harris, Luenell, Tasha Smith, and Wesley Snipes