By A.D. Beal
Eddie Murphy rocket ship to stardom throughout the 80’s and 90’s had mostly run out of gas over the past few decades. His only movies within the past nine years have been the final Shrek, two virtually unknown comedies and a stab at dramatic films with his last feature Mr. Church. Getting mostly negative reviews with the latter three films, as well as Murphy’s run in the early 2000’s, one had to wonder if Murphy had lost the charm of a once stellar career. Dolemite Is My Name proves that this is not the case. it shows that Murphy has plenty more to bring to the world of acting.
The film tells the story of Rudy Ray Moore, a man who works multiple jobs trying to break into to the public eye. One night while working as an opening act in a nightclub, he invents the persona of Dolemite. He is able to translates this into to some decent success, including several comedy records. Still striving for more, he reaches for the ultimate dream: a Dolemite movie. This is hindered by an inexperienced crew, creative conflicts and little money.
What I love instantly about this film is that it doesn’t cover all of Moore’s life and is specifically about his prime and the hype around Dolemite. It takes the Aviator approach of one time that sums up a person and their impact in the best way possible. Screenwriter duo Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewsk (Ed Wood, Man On The Moon) give you enough of Rudy’s past so you understand why he is who he is and he yearns for future stardom. It’s also humorous enough without taking away from the drama. I did find it a bit concerning how the film portrays the homeless characters as little beyond humorous side characters that supply Moore with material and then disappear for the rest of the film. Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) also captures the 70s aesthetic and camerawork without shoving it in your face to the point of parody.
This is definitely Murphy’s show. Don’t get me wrong, the supporting cast is great. Keegan Michael-Key, Craig Robinson and many other actors are lively and bring new perspectives to the production. Wesley Snipes is especially amazing as Dolemite’s director D’Urville Martin, with a cartoonish level of pretentiousness. However, Murphy is obviously at the forefront, showing Moore as a man who is confident, imperfect and determined to reach his goal without coming off as an egotistical jerk. You can tell Murphy took this role seriously and gave us one of his best performances yet.
Dolemite Is My Name should be an award winning biopic. It will be a shame if this film is overlooked this awards season. Even if it isn’t one of the best films of the time, it is one of the most standout. Let’s see if Netflix gives it the attention that it deserves.
*Note: Netflix will not be giving this a theatrical release in Phoenix. They will however begin streaming it on October 25.