It feels like most of the Netflix original movies that are coming out in the fall might be destined to be the most memorable from earlier this year, and for good reason. From my perspective, it just shows that they are getting talents to give their viewers the pleasure of good entertainment. Let’s take Dolemite Is My Name, for example. Not also because it’s a biopic, but having its main star be Eddie Murphy will be a sure thing that will get people to watch it. But can this be the one film that’s a step forward to Murphy picking good projects again?
What’s the Story: In 1970s Los Angeles, struggling comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) can’t catch a break when it comes to his stand-up routines while working at a record store. But everything changes when he comes up with a new persona named Dolemite, a character that’s a pimp who knows kung-fu and spits in rhymed that he heard stories from a homeless man. Just as it became famous and successfully selling comedy albums secretly, his dreams don’t stop there as he and his friends decide to make a Dolemite movie and make it on the big screen.
Since I’m in my early 20s, I faintly remember hearing Dolemite before. I didn’t know this has become one of the most popular series in the blaxploitation period, much like Shaft, but in a way that doesn’t take itself seriously. After hearing it wasn’t bad at TIFF and Fantastic Fest, I and everybody else have been waiting to see a good comedy with its main star, and I can easily say Dolemite Is My Name is entertaining all the way through.
There’s no denying that Murphy is one of the funniest movie stars to ever live. But for longtime fans, it’s no secret that he hasn’t been in a good movie in forever. Some thought he’d return with enjoyable Tower Heist, and what did he follow that up with, you may ask? A Thousand Words, one of the worst movies of that year. But here’s the thing, Murphy brought it his all in here, and this is easily one of the best roles he’s ever given since his Oscar-nominated performance in Dreamgirls. It’s the kind of role that’s made for him in a sense of being funny and relatable. This was a role that he felt comfortable to portray a comedic legend like Ray Moore, and even though it’s still Murphy and doesn’t exactly disappear at any point, it’s just nice to see him having fun with this project.
Craig Brewer’s involvement was another reason I was looking forward to this, as he is best known for directing Hustle & Flow and the underrated remake of Footloose. But I feel he was the right choice to helm this biopic where another director wouldn’t know how to make this work entirely. This just has the feel and look of a movie that takes place in the 70s and knows how to make Rudy a character to root for throughout this experience. Then you have the hilarious screenplay from writing duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon) that coming off the screen in the best way in recreating scenes from the first Dolemite movie, along with The Human Tornado. It was kind of funny knowing that the movie that he saw that sparked the inspiration was Billy Wilder’s The Front Page, and he and his friends are the only people in the theater not laughing.
I think a movie that’s pretty similar to this is The Disaster Artist. What I mean by that is that it focuses on a person that just wants to make his dreams of making a movie come true in a world where it’s impossible to get things in the way. And it shows that filmmakers can make even the smallest dreams come true with a little bit of help. That applies to here since there are moments where, Rudy believes he can and does this Dolemite movie not just for him, but for everyone involved. That’s true dedication right here. But which do I prefer? Probably The Disaster Artist because I really did have a smile the entire time with that.
Even though this is Murphy’s movie, the rest of the supporting ensemble gives the chance to show how funny they are, including Keegan-Michael Key as playwright Jerry Jones, Mike Epps as Jimmy Lynch, Craig Robinson as Ben Taylor, Tituss Burgess as Theodore Toney, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed. But out of everybody, it was Wesley Snipes that steals every scene he’s in. He plays D’Urville Martin, who Rudy hired as the director for Dolemite and doesn’t have a clue what he got himself into, and he had me cracking up almost anytime he says something.
I didn’t expect to have some solid laughs, but it did. Whether it was during the filming of Dolemite or just the dialogue in general, it’s one of the funniest films in the past few months.
Also, let me give credit to Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carther for the film’s costume design because this is one of those times where I paid attention to what kind of clothes the actors are wearing, and it totally fits into the era of the early 70s.
With this being based on a true story, I have no idea what was factual and what wasn’t since it does focus more on the comedy. Some of the stuff that was in there probably didn’t happen, but I wasn’t there to know if it was. Just the ending alone just made me smile before it ended.
As for problems that I found with the film, there were some slight pacing issues in the first act before it was really pushing forward with the actual plot. Besides that, some parts of the story did feel a bit rushed in terms of Rudy’s decision to become this character and other stuff in between. But putting aside those cons, Dolemite Is My Name is pure enjoyment.
Because of how great this turned out to be, will we see Murphy earn another Oscar-nomination for this? I’m not quite sure yet, but, hopefully, he’ll get a Golden Globe nomination since they pay attention more to comedic performances. Now I have a bit more confidence in Brewer now that he’s going to direct the Coming to America sequel next year.
I was surprised by how much fun I had watching this for somebody that didn’t know who Ray Moore was before this came out. Not just because of Brewer’s direction and a script that’s funny and gives hope of achieving the possibilities, it gives Murphy’s comeback performance that fans have been waiting a long time for. Do yourself a favor and check this out if you have a Netflix account, especially if you’re in the mood to watch a sweet tribute to the late Rudy Ray Moore.