Dolemite Is My Name
Starring Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, Ron Cephas Jones, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Wesley Snipes
Director: Craig Brewer
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Unrated: film contains coarse language, nudity, and violence
Runtime: 118 minutes
Plays Friday through Wednesday at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton. metrocinema.org
If you thought a biopic of a real-life major player in blaxploitation couldn’t touch your heart and make you believe in chasing your dreams then you really should watch Dolemite is My Name. In fact, you should watch this movie even if you’ve lost faith that Eddie Murphy is a bona fide entertainer on multiple levels: actor, singer and comedian.
This movie is not just a piece of nostalgic Americana; it’s actually a tribute to the rise of a very particular genre of filmmaking and one very particular fictional hero. Dolemite. Just as Moore was the perfect Dolemite, Eddie Murphy plays the perfect Moore: not only does Murphy have the right comedic tone with the right level of pathos and human yearning, he also has a great singing voice and looks so much like the real Moore on top of all that to boot.
Dolemite is My Name was created by the writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the same dynamic duo behind such great stories as Ed Wood, Man on the Moon, and The People vs. Larry Flynt – all winning biopics in this critic’s mind. Combine that creative writing talent with director Craig Brewer straight up using the template of his earlier Hustle & Flow transposed with Moore as the main character in his own ‘rise to fame’ story and you have a movie that’s part historical drama, part insider Hollywood crowdpleasing comedy, and part social justice championship of showing the talent that lay – and likely still lies – in lower class black neighbourhoods all across the Americas.
In this movie, Moore has tried everything to be famous, but nothing has worked. It takes the chance encounter with a street bum named Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones) who has a colossal memory for what must surely be some of the country’s crudest and most brilliant poetry. That poetry features a fictional character who would become Moore’s stage presence.
The whole film is a work of poetry, to be honest. It’s magical, even. In amongst all of the swear words – and there are many; remember, it’s an R-rated Eddie Murphy movie – it’s an inspiration, a tribute to a guy who was told ‘No’ all his life so he decided he was taking his fate in his own hands, and he brought along a bunch of others who were told ‘No’ to the heights with him. It’s every do-it-yourselfer’s vindication. Now granted, I’m already a big fan of movie lore so the film didn’t have to work that hard to win me over. Still, it’s a winning view into a life I wouldn’t have otherwise known, and I feel all the richer for it.
This movie is great entertainment on top of all of that. It comes with the perfect cast too, as Murphy is joined by some top names and I cheered as every one took the screen. Chalk this one up as both a fine memorial to the real Rudy Ray Moore who has already passed as well as an excellent reminder Eddie Murphy is still spotlight-ready for his major comeback.