Review: Dolemite Is My Name
Netflix scores big with Eddie MurphyNetflix scores big with Eddie Murphy taking his turn as the Hollywood comeback kid, playing the legendary Rudy Ray Moore, foul-mouthed, pre-rap rhyming comic, turned 1970s Blaxploitation movie star of the craptastic DOLEMITE (1975).
There’s a whole sub-genre of movies celebrating amateurs with ambitions bigger than their talents making theatre or movies that are gloriously bad with a group of outsiders who become family (think James Franco’s 2017 THE DISASTER ARTIST, which followed the making of Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-good THE ROOM).
No surprise then that the script is by Tim Burton's wonderful ED WOOD (1994) scribes, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who deliver the so-mad-it-must-be-true story of Rudy’s rise to notoriety in this filthy, but heartfelt comedy, that’s a surprisingly old-fashioned morality tale of a hero refusing to take no for an answer.
As Rudy says: “A man slam a door in my face, I just find another door.”
Directed by Craig Brewer (BLACK SNAKE MOAN, HUSTLE AND FLOW), the film revels in source material that contained such gems as: “Yes, I’m Dolemite. I’m the one that killed Monday, whupped Tuesday and put Wednesday in the hospital! Called up Thursday to tell Friday not to bury Saturday on Sunday!”
Keegan-Michael Key (of KEY AND PEELE) plays Jerry Jones, the playwright Rudy talks into writing a screenplay, insisting it contain all the key ingredients that make for a great movie – from action, comedy and car chases, to Kung Fu, nudity, profanity and an army of female assassins.
The supporting cast are a relative who’s who of famous faces, featuring appearances from Snoop Dogg and Chris Rock as DJs, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, and most wonderfully and funny of all, Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin, a bit-part actor who takes on directing Rudy’s certifiably bonkers movie.
Snipes nearly steals the show with his outrageous performance and killer lines, with a character about as far removed from his action-hero of old as it’s possible to get.
Heartfelt, warm, comedic and uplifting, there’s schmaltz by the bucketload, as Murphy returns to the BOWFINGER (2000) field of delightfully deluded characters making movies, simultaneously reviving his career, paying homage to the comedian who paved the way for the likes of Murphy’s own stand-up comedy career, and celebrating the magic of moviemaking the Ed Wood and Tommy Wiseau way.
No great shakes in terms of cinematography or direction, but the cast, crazy-cool 1970s costumes, outrageous tale and sincere message make this comedy about creating your own family fast and furiously fun.