Part of the reason Blaxploitation films have remained popular for decades are the how endearing the movies are. Names like Shaft, Super Fly, and The Mack still resonate today. Despite their popularity, groups such as the NAACP derided for perpetuating stereotypes about black pepple. Then there was Dolemite. A blaxploitation flick that parodied the genre, the movie starred comedian Rudy Ray Moore. It is regarded as a classic. Starring Eddie Murphy as the titular king fu practicing pimp, Dolemite is my Name is the story of how the movie came to be.
Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest comedians of all time. He turned his widespread appeal into a successful Hollywood career. It was derailed in the 1990s and since then he has made a number of comebacks. Dolemite is My Name May be the one that sticks.
The Netflix biopic about Moore allows Murphy to be at his comedic best. This is partially due to much of the movie being about Moore’s stand up career. The always charismatic Murphy is especially energetic in the environment in which he started his career. He is at complete ease and fans of Delirious and Raw will be pleased to see a Murphy they are familiar with.
It helps that the jokes are very funny. Again, the movie is a throwback to the younger (and raunchier) Murphy. Dolemite is My Name is a hilarious series of zingers, one liners, and comebacks. The humor is vulgar, but it does not rely on profanity to make the audience laugh. This is one of the most genuinely funny films of the year.
Murphy does not do it alone, however. The cast of Dolemite is my Name is just as good as the Beverly Hills Cop star. Wesley Snipes shows off his comedic chops in his role as D’Urville Martin. Keegan-Michael Kay is hilarious as Jerry Jones (the writer not the owner), and Tituss Burgess shines in his scenes. This is not a solo effort as the whole cast brings Dolemite is My Name together.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph adds a more serious element to the movie. She is just as funny as the rest of the cast. But she is written for much more than just comedy. As Lady Reed, Randolph is Moore’s sounding board. Reed provides Moore advice and inspirational words. These more emotional moments in Dolemite is My Name prevent it from being just a series of silly moments. While it would be just as funny, the interactions between the two give the audience downtime.
The recurring theme of Dolemite is My Name is how hard Moore worked to overcome his struggles. The opening moments of the movie do a great job of illustrating this. After watching Moore beg to get a radio DJ to play his music, the audience sees how he is trying to better himself at the nightclub he works at. The movie is a series of people who think they know better telling Moore he he cannot succeed. Each time, Moore is able to prove the doubters wrong.
This may be the film’s greatest problem. It does a great job of showing how few people believed in what Moore was able to do. Friends and family continue to question his decision making even after his has become a star. Watching him do what he sets out to is supposed to triumphant. He is a likable character, so it is great to see him attain his goals, but there is not the sense of satisfaction that should come with it. The audience gets more of an idea there should be a struggle instead of actually seeing it.
The closest Dolemite is My Name comes to truly getting across what Moore went though is when he is making the Blaxploitation classic. Along with people thinking he was crazy to try it, there are tangible problems like a lack of money and equipment to work with. Seeing how Moore finds his way around things like who will act in his film shows his desire and ingenuity. Unsurprisingly, these are the best parts of the film. There may be funnier moments, but this portion of the movie gives the best picture of who Moore was.
Dolemite is My Name is a hysterical look at how Rudy Ray Moore became a star. The acting is excellent and the laughs never stop coming. The film shows the importance of having a strong cast with Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes doing some of the best work of their careers. The movie makes it sometimes makes it seem like Moore’s success came about too easily, but it is definitely a must-see.