Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dolemite Is My Name - Review

It’s been a long time since Eddie Murphy has been at the center of a successful endeavor. Outside of a handful of voice acting gigs related to the Shrek franchise, Murphy’s filmography since 2006 is full of misfires and ill-advised attempts at comedy. But now he’s back, in every sense of the word, to bring audiences the tale of Rudy Ray Moore, and with any luck, get back into the awards conversation.

The story of performer Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy), who assumed the role of an iconic pimp named Dolemite during the 1970s and produced a series of comedy albums. Once the money starts to pour in, Rudy sets his sights even higher: Hollywood.

Murphy is the heart and soul of Dolemite Is My Name. As Moore, the actor delivers the never-say-die attitude and an earnestness unlike any other that pushes the singer, comedian, and performer to strive for stardom on the big screen. Murphy obviously brings the comedy, but the performance is far more layered than that, portraying a man that just wants to be known and celebrated above all else. The actor field is fairly crowded in 2019, but don’t be surprised if Murphy wiggles his way in when the time comes.

Fortunately, the film doesn’t rest entirely on Murphy’s capable shoulders. He gets help in the form of a dynamite supporting cast with two very notable standouts in Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes. The two add to the film in very different ways; Randolph brings a wonderful spark as Lady Reed and Snipes in an erratic, go for broke performance that you’ll either love or hate (For the record: I loved every second of it).

In the end, Dolemite Is My Name is a biopic. A crazy, brash, and bold biopic, but a biopic nonetheless. And the film does fall into some traps know of the sub-genre, cliches that are unavoidable it seems when you try and tell the tale of someone’s life. Despite never deviating from the standard model set up by the script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it’s hard to resist the charms that the film offers.

Part of that charm starts and ends with the exceptional production design and general feel of the 70’s present throughout every inch of the frame and every note in the soundtrack. Costumes from Oscar winner Ruth E.Carter are exquisite and colorful, and a second Oscar just may come her way if people are paying attention. The whole film has this love for its subject and time period, and it comes through in the best ways, forcing you to care for this ragtag group of show business hopefuls as they make their own movie.

Dolemite Is My Name is an impossible to resist film about the unabashed drive of one man to seemingly do the improbable: finance, star in, and distribute a film that is far from a guaranteed success. Murphy is extraordinary as Moore, earning plenty of praise already with more sure to come when the film hits Netflix next week. Personally, like  any Netflix release with a limited release in theaters, I’d say see it on the big screen if you can. If not, just make sure you see it somehow, you won’t be disappointed.

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