Eddie Murphy has been relatively quite these past few years. Now he has big plans that include sequels to Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, as well as a return to standup comedy. But before any of that happens, the first stepping stone toward a virtual relaunch of the famed comedian’s career is his latest theatrical release, Dolemite Is My Name. Let’s take a closer look at how the film fairs in our review of Dolemite Is My Name.
The new film is essentially a dramatized biopic in the same vein as Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocket Man. Granted, this doesn’t focus on a musical legend, but the subject is a theatrical legend, Rudy Ray Moore. Moore created the Dolemite character back in the 70s, which became one of the defining aspects of the Blaxploitation film genre.
When you think of Blaxploitation, Shaft and Superfly generally come to mind. While both Blaxploitation icons have had modern day films, those movies were more about bringing the respective franchises to a new generation of people. Dolemite Is My Name is a dramatic biography of Moore’s creation of the Dolemite character, including a play-by-play take on the filming of the first Dolemite movie.
While the new film responsibly pays homage to Moore and Dolemite, it’s so factual that it ends up nearly alienating newcomers to the Dolemite character. Back in the 70s, Dolemite spoke to the Black community in a way that many other films just didn’t have the gusto to do. However, times are very different now, and the entertainment that young Black men seek out has made an even more drastic change. This causes many of the jokes that define the Dolemite character to fall on deaf ears.
Dolemite Is My Name offers an inspirational look at Rudy Ray Moore’s climb from two-bit comedian to one of the biggest Black film stars of an era. Murphy plays Moore and Dolemite well, but it’s difficult to see beyond Murphy’s mannerisms to see Moore and Dolemite instead of just another Eddie Murphy character. It doesn’t help that Murphy took inspiration from Dolemite for his early career material.
Eddie Murphy aside, the defining performance in Dolemite Is My Name comes from Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin. Snipes is virtually unrecognizable when the character is first introduced, and continues that trend throughout the film in one of the best performances of his career. Dolemite Is My Name may be the launching point of an Eddie Murphy resurgence, but it could just as easily kick start Snipes’ career as well (give him the Whistler role in the new Blade film Marvel!).
If you’re already a Dolemite fan, this film was made for you. If you’re a fan of Blaxploitation films, Dolemite Is My Name is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. But if you prefer more modern humor, you won’t understand many of the jokes, and you’ll probably misunderstand the whole appeal of the Dolemite character.
Score: 7 out of 10
Plot: Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.
Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Biographical
Length: 1 Hour, 57 Minutes
Release Date: 10/18/2019 (Wide)