Dir; Craig Brewer. Starring; Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes. R. Color. 117 minutes.
I will sum up how excellent “Dolemite Is My Name” is with one of the best quotes ever. Dolemite after seeing a popular white comedy film; “Man that movie had no funnies, no titties, and no kung-fu. That’s all people wanna see!”.
What a jolt of energy and honesty “Dolemite” is. It is one of those ‘how did they get the money to make this?’ films. The story is ridiculous. The stars, particularly Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes, have been washed up for years. And the director Craig Brewer is a white dude working with an almost all black cast. But it doesn’t just work, it blows expectations through the roof.
Eddie Murphy better get an Oscar nomination as he plays real life now unknown figure Rudy Ray Moore, a wannabe failed star working at a record shop in LA in the 1970’s. The shop’s radio DJ Roj played by Snoop Dogg, which is certainly an ode to Sam Jackson in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”, is constantly making fun of Moore. He also moonlights at late night comedy clubs and is a dud in every show.
The turning point is when Moore meets a crazy local drunk named Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones). A living embodiment of a cartoon, Ricco tells ridiculous stories about afro-American folklore and complete craziness. A light goes off in Moore’s head and he creates the outrageous character Dolemite. He pleads with the nightclub manager to go on stage, is refused, then does it anyways. His first performance is the biggest hit the club has seen and quickly Dolemite is putting out comedy albums that his old record store has to stock for him.
The next step, motion pictures. With his core crew in life played by Craig Robinson, Mike Epps and Tituss Burgess (who will be the little film crew that could on set) approach established black actor D’Urville Martin, played by Wesley Snipes. Martin initially turns them down then has a two second change of heart when they tell him that he can direct.
Once they have a director they need something to make a movie, oh yeah a script. They pick up a social-conscious obsessed writer in Jerry (Keegan-Michael Key) to pen the Dolemite movie that ‘everybody wants to see’. Moments when Jerry is being driven up the wall with what people are doing to his precious screenplay are hilarious. From there we move from material about being funny intentionally to material being funny because it is so ridiculous that you cannot believe it happened, highlighted by a camera crew of skinny white film students, sex scenes that make no sense, and a fight scene so bad that it’s awesome.
The final act sees Dolemite struggling to find a studio to release what he thinks is his opus. Reluctantly going back to comedy, he finally finds a theater to premier the movie and the rest is cult blaxsploitation history. It is such an odd conclusion to an individuals journey that I don’t know how it won’t make you smile.
While it does clearly have movies-that-are-better-than-movies-they’re-based-on influences with films like “Ed Wood” and “The Disaster Artist”, “Dolemite” is uniquely its own version of that story ark. It has the same compassion those other films do, but there’s a certain swagger that cannot be taught or coached. Eddie Murphy is the only actor to play a man who is not historically remembered but in real life, totally unforgettable and one of a kind. This film looks at a crazy fluke of a human being in Rudy Ray Moore with compassion, honesty, and hilarious sarcasm. It is also sneakily well shot by cinematographer Eric Steelberg who utilizes both 70’s B-Movie style techniques and seamlessly combines it with modern biopic shooting.
I have never wanted to be a star, but of course there have been moments in my life where I wanted the spotlight in both little and big ways. Almost everyone has and will continue to strive for that at times. “Dolemite Is My Name” is about a man who is not talented, but is in the MVP conversation of wanting so badly to be famous. Some people aren’t great at what they do but are fascinating to have around in your life. If I could go back in time, meeting Rudy Ray Moore would be high on my list.
Suck Factor: 0out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!