Dolemite Is My Name
by George Wolf
Can’t you just hear Dolemite now?
“I’m so m*&^@f#$@!^*’ bad they got that m*&^@f#$@! Eddie Murphy to play me in a m*&^@f#$@!^’ movie!”
They did, and Murphy could very well ride it to an Oscar nomination in this brash, funny, and often wildly entertaining look at the birth of a cultural icon.
“Dolemite” was the brainchild of Rudy Ray Moore, who created the character for his standup comedy act in the early 70s. Moore’s raw material was much too adult for record companies at the time, but the success of his early underground comedy albums (sample title: “Eat Out More Often”) finally gave Moore the cheering crowds he longed for – and the urge to take Dolemite to the big screen.
Moore’s string of so-bad-their-good blaxploitation classics not only became important influences in the expanding independent film market, but also for rappers and young comics like Murphy himself.
Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who penned the scripts for The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ed Wood and Man on the Moon among others, are certainly at home fleshing out the stories behind creative legends, and their script fills Dolemite Is My Name with heart, joy and raunchy laughs.
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) keeps the pace quick and energetic, crafting a bustling salute to the creative process that never forgets how to be fun.
Two pivotal and very funny scenes bookend the film’s biggest strengths.
Early on, Moore and his crew leave a movie theater dumbfounded by the white audience’s love for a popular feature that had “no titties, no funny and no kung fu!”
Then, during filming of the original Dolemite, Moore doesn’t feel right about his big sex scene until his character’s prowess is pushed to ridiculous levels. We’re laughing, but there’s no doubt we’re laughing with Moore, not at him. And while we’re laughing, we’re learning how Moore took inspiration from the world he lived in, and why he wouldn’t rest until his audience was served.
At the Toronto International Film Festival last month, Murphy said he wanted this film to remind people why they liked him.
Leading a terrific ensemble that includes Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Kodi Smit-McPhee and a priceless Wesley Snipes as the “real” actor among these amateurs, Murphy owns every frame. This film wouldn’t work unless we see a separation between Moore and his character. Murphy toes this line with electric charisma, setting up the feels when Moore’s dogged belief in himself is finally rewarded.
Dolemite Is My Name tells a personal story, but it’s one that’s universal to dreamers everywhere.
And it’s also m*&^@f#$@!^* funny, suckas!