Craig Brewer’s “Dolemite Is My Name” has Eddie Murphy playing 1970s-era blaxploitation icon Rudy Ray Moore in a film about how Moore’s famous movie character Dolemite came to be.
Fetching groovy fashion attire, from hat to suit to cane, Murphy’s passion project finally comes to the big screen in the form of Larry Karszewski and Scott Alexander’s screenplay. It’s no coincidence that both writers were also in charge of penning Tim Burton’s best movie, “Ed Wood,” which was also a love letter to making movies.
Call this the blaxploitation version of “Ed Wood,” filled with the same deft comic touch, but sadly less of the artistry. That’s alright, because “Dolemite is my Name” is still the funniest movie I have seen all year, a hoot and a holler about a black man living in whitey America yearning to make a name for himself.
Woking at a record store in a poor Los Angeles neighbourhood and where every type of hustler walks the street corners, Moore decided to create the character of Dolemite the pimp after recording a homeless man’s rant. The routine results into an obscene stand up which becomes an overnight sensation, to the point where Moore decides to record one of the shows and starts selling it in the bootleg business. The numbers are so big that a record company decides to distribute it widely across the United States. And yet, it’s the movies that Moore wants to conquer. With a little help from some shady friends, he takes over and renovates a needle and rat-infested crackhouse into a soundstage for production on the “Dolemite” movie.
The crew of outcasts he hires include “Black Caesar” star D'Urville Martin, played in wickedly over the-top fashion by Wesley Snipes, a high-brow theatre playwright (Keegan-Michael Key) and a heavy-set stripper turned actress (Da'Vine Joy Randolph).
It’s with this talented cast of characters that Brewer brings out the laughs during production of the movie, including the most outrageous sex scene you have ever seen. Suffice to say, the whole shoot is unprofessionally kept, but, much like Ed Wood, Moore’s love of cinema is indelibly infectious.
This Netflix-produced biopic comedy is not only Murphy's first major movie since 2011’s “Tower Heist,” but his best performance since his Oscar nominated turn in “Dreamgirls.” The 58-year-old actor seems re-invigorated by acting again. ‘Dolemite’ must have sparked something in Murphy because a comeback is clearly in the works. Not only is the film being released later this year, but Murphy has also just finished shooting a sequel to his classic comedy ‘Coming to America,’ and a fourth “Beverly Hills Cop” movie is about to happen.
Of note: Ruth E. Carter's eye-popping costumes immerse you in '70s-era styles like no other film before it, an Oscar nom could very well await Miss Carter. [B]