Everyone loves a comeback story.
Not only is that the tale of Rudy Ray Moore’s entire life and career as the singer/dancer/comedian/actor had to restart multiple times, but also of the man playing him in the Netflix film “Dolemite Is My Name.”
Eddie Murphy is back for his first film in three years! In his first rated R project in 20 years since the criminally underrated “Life” with Martin Lawrence, the king of the 1980s has climbed all the way back up. In a film that almost seems a bit too on the nose for Murphy as he and Moore’s careers also had downturns, Murphy shines.
The rest of the film is a bit too cliché for my taste. It follows along most biopic tropes, which “Bohemian Rhapsody” brought back last year after the wonderful satire “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” nearly killed off the genre a decade ago.
However, I won’t fault Dolemite too much on the paint-by-number structure, what should sell this film is the performance. And the thing is, besides Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s role as Lady Reed and fellow comeback kid Wesley Snipes portraying D’Urville Martin, I don’t believe anyone very much in these roles. It seems to me like many are pretending to be in an episode of “Drunk History.”
It is the type of film that I expected when Netflix decided to enter the Academy Award game a few years back. It just seems less prestigious than its counterparts on the big screen. I didn’t like “Roma” last year in one of the dullest movies I have ever seen so maybe it’s a problem with the format, which is odd because I love so much of Netflix’s original content.
Maybe I am sounding like one of the critics Moore derides in “Dolemite,” but the original film from 1975 wasn’t trying to be an Oscar vehicle. This 2019 biopic has been marketed as one, but besides Murphy’s performance and some good costume design, I don’t see it making much of an appearance.
Golden Globes for Musical and Comedy, sure thing.
Anyway, instead of boring you with all that talk, let’s get to the film because it is an enjoyable one that you can watch from the comfort of your own home.
Moore is working at a record store in Los Angeles after failing in several ventures and currently not exactly selling out his comedy shows either where he gets only a 5-minute set before Craig Robinson’s band shoos him off the stage.
One day, Moore has the great idea of taking some rhymes and stories some old winos were always saying to him and recording it, making an entire character off of it named “Dolemite.”
He records an album at his house and sells it out of his car because no company initially wants to sell the profane material. Soon, though, he charts on Billboard and his comedy career takes off.
Moore goes to see a screening of 1974’s “The Front Page,” a film the critics loved. He hates it and decides to make his own Blaxploitation film kind of like Shaft. What follows is a production which I can only compare to how 2003’s “The Room” was made, which had its own biopic “The Disaster Artist” a few years ago.
Moore struggles with financing it, but eventually after getting into debt up to his eyes, he finishes and tries to sell it. Murphy does well in showing Moore’s lack of confidence in himself after so many failures, but also his determination to prove people wrong.
In a film that I hope relaunches the career for Murphy, if not Snipes as well, Murphy shows what made him famous in the first place as he returns to his roots. The family movie era had some hits but a ton of misses, so hopefully coming back to his adult comedy world will make his star shine bright once again.
Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity.
My score: 77/100
Jordan Bishop is the assistant news editor for the Stillwater News Press and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.