I’m in full support of Eddie Murphy’s comeback attempt. I don’t know if he has the same abilities that he used to possess all those years ago, but the entertainment industry is in need of people who have truly mastered their craft. I was hoping that the legendary comedian would be able to answer those questions for me in Dolemite Is My Name, but I don’t feel like he did.
After years of nothing but failure, Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) thinks he’s finally found a way to succeed in show business. Instead of just being himself, the comedian decides to borrow from what’s around him. In doing so, he creates a persona known as Dolemite, a pimp with a host of tales deemed too racy for the mainstream. He achieves some success with this, but he wants to bring the character to the big screen. And to accomplish that, he’s going to have to risk it all and build a team that’s as ambitious and as hungry as he is.
I noticed that even though Murphy is portraying an actual person, the performance is his and only his. As you watch from beginning to end, you’ll feel as if it’s Murphy through and through in terms of the personality that he consistently exhibits. Because I didn’t know much about the man that he’s portraying, it didn’t bother me much. I guess if I knew more about Rudy Ray Moore as an actual person, it could have been more problematic if the portrayal was too different.
I suspect that many people will also feel the same if they put any thought into it. Back when movies like Dolemite were being made, there probably wasn’t much access to the actors behind the characters and personas anyway. So even people who saw the movie when it was first released may not be able to make a good assessment of how close Murphy is to the real guy. What they can equate this performance to is Murphy himself as an entertainer. Those memories are vivid for plenty of us and will likely satisfy many to some degree.
When speaking of the movie itself, I’m reminded of 2017’s The Disaster Artist. If you liked that one, there’s a good chance that you’ll be fond of this Eddie Murphy led piece of cinema as well. The similarities are obvious and the two really begin to mirror one another when we get to the second half of this 2019 release.
Once we get here, the film focuses on how Rudy Ray Moore got his first movie made and what he needed to sacrifice in order to achieve that goal. To me, this is also where things begin to pick up a bit. Before that, things are pretty solid as well, but not as exceptional. Obviously, those are the opening acts. That’s where they introduce us to the protagonist as well as his initial struggles to find a place for himself in the industry.
We’re also introduced to most of Murphy’s strong supporting cast at this point. These people add to the movie and to Moore’s life as he pushes toward his goals. I wouldn’t say there’s one single performance that stands out from the supporting actors, but they all come together to contribute and make sure the movie delivers in ways that it needs to for its viewers.
When looking at the comedic elements of Dolemite Is My Name, most of this is amusing as well. The majority of it won’t have you falling out of your chair, but it will get you to react in plenty of instances. I guess one of the things that surprised me a little bit was that they didn’t go to the outrageous levels that I figured they might. Although it’s clearly a comedy, it doesn’t usually attempt to move too far from the range of realism and is handled in a slightly more serious manner than I figured it would be.
Based on all that we get here, I’m still unable to say whether or not Murphy can reclaim the status he used to have in the world of comedy. Maybe his upcoming work will provide us with a clearer answer. While the current position can still be questioned, the quality of Dolemite Is My Name can not. What we have in our possession here is a picture that is delightful, balanced and able to deliver a satisfying experience.
Director: Craig Brewer
Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Ron Cephas Jones
Barry Shabaka Henley
Tip ‘TI’ Harris
Film Length: 118 minutes
- Score - 7.5/107.5/10