Dolemite Is My Name (hereafter simply referred to as “Dolemite”) is directed by Craig Brewer. The film stars Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Tip “TI” Harris, Chris Rock, Ron Cephas Jones, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Snoop Dogg. The film will receive a limited theatrical release on October 4, 2019, before being available for streaming on Netflix on October 25, 2019.
Dolemite is based on the true story of actor/comedian Rudy Ray Moore, and his rise to fame. In the early 1970s, his Dolemite stand-up character, based on rhyming verse and old comedic stories, becomes an instant hit, with his comedy albums making him an overnight superstar. Moore, however, wants to reach a wider audience, and sets out to make his presence known through a motion picture, portraying Dolemite on the silver screen. But he’s got no experience making movies, and neither do most of the people who’ve signed on for the project. And even if he gets the movie finished, will he find a distributor or an audience?
Okay, confession time. Despite my being a huge fan of all things cinema related, I’d never heard of Rudy Ray Moore prior to seeing this film. But seeing that the film would be something of a comeback vehicle for Eddie Murphy, I was most certainly on board. The movie is an unflinching (and at times downright vulgar and politically incorrect!) look at this colorful entertainment icon, and despite a few flaws in the narrative, it’s a pretty damn entertaining one.
I’ll be the first to tell you the movie isn’t for the easily offended. Portraying Rudy Ray Moore in an R-rated film gives Eddie Murphy the chance to cut loose and make the audience laugh by any means necessary, which is hands down one of my favorite aspects of this production. There’s vulgarity around every corner, and the crass approach keeps the laughs coming. It’s a classic “truth is stranger than fiction” story, and the fact it’s a true story makes it all the more remarkable. And hilarious. Just be forewarned; the F-word is here in abundance, there’s plenty of nudity, and the movie isn’t afraid to approach edgy material. If you’re easily offended, go see another movie. But if you want to laugh and vulgarity and political incorrectness don’t scare you off, you’re in the right place.
It also succeeds as a period piece, complete with a 1970s atmosphere that captures the fashions, the sounds, and the tech (or lack thereof) of the day, making the production all the more appealing. The film uses its assets well, and watching the filmmaking process from a bunch of people who had little or no filmmaking experience is hilarious and enlightening alike. In many ways, it feels like a blaxploitation version of The Disaster Artist, though I mean that as an endearing compliment.
As much as I like the film, it does have a few issues which keep it from greatness. The beginning of the film shows us Rudy Ray Moore struggling as a comedian, and he becomes an overnight success with the Dolemite character. But the success comes too quickly and there’s no real “build up” to it or noticeable struggle. Likewise, the movie’s third act tends to drag, making the running time a little longer than it needs to be. We also see plenty of the filming of the movie, but this film itself disappointingly doesn’t focus at all on the post-production/editing process, which is a bit of a letdown. That said, the good still outweighs the bad.
I wouldn’t rush to theaters to see Dolemite during its limited run, but when it hits Netflix, you’re sure to be entertained by Eddie Murphy’s performance and portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore. Solidly recommended.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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