‘Dolemite Is My Name’ movie review
By Michele Provenzano, Staff Writer
Dolemite is his name and fucking up motherfuckers is his game. This is the iconic catchphrase of Rudy Ray Moore’s alter ego. Eddie Murphy’s cinematic comeback, Dolemite Is My Name, packs the journey of Rudy Ray Moore into a feel-good film that succeeds in doing what it sets out to do: entertain.
Dolemite Is My Name is a biographical comedy based on the legendary comedian and filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. The movie was directed by Craig Brewer, and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It premiered this September 7 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Moore (Eddie Murphy) is a comedian who’s been trying to make his grandiose show biz dreams come true since he first moved out to LA. He’s had to hold onto his day-job—an assistant manager at a record store—for longer than he’d intended to. His usual comedy act hasn’t had much success, so he decides to try something new. He adopts the character Dolemite from African American folklore and depicts him onstage. Dolemite is a lively pimp with obscene and outrageous tales to tell.
The new act brings Moore immense success. He records a comedy album which becomes a hit and gets picked up by a production company. Moore believes the character is destined for something bigger: a movie. With the help of his friends Toney (Tituss Burgess) and Ben (Craig Robinson), a well-known director (Wesley Snipes), and a local playwright (Keegan Michael-Key), Moore sets out to film, release, and promote a movie which he hopes will bring him the Hollywood success he’s dreamed about.
The film succeeds in presenting likeable characters who share their vulnerabilities with the audience. From the moment Moore whole-heartedly asks a friend a reflective question—“How’d my life get so small?”—I found myself rooting for his success. My favourite character was Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a single mother Moore meets, sees a spark of talent in, and asks to join him on tour. She’s funny, bold, insecure at times, and ultimately gracious. She and Moore develop a sweet friendship.
The film was quite a visual spectacle—not due to any elaborate effects or momentous cinematography, but due to its consistency and accuracy in portraying the time period. Costume and set design were executed fantastically. If you’re a fan of 70s’ fashion, this movie is a feast for the eyes. From the city streets decorated with vintage cars, to Moore’s aunt’s living room with its floral curtains and floral wallpaper, the sets were thoroughly convincing. The colouring of the film contributed also in giving the movie a fully retro feel.
This movie was just as funny as it needed to be. It may not have had me in hysterics, but that wasn’t the tone of the film. The antics of its characters made me chuckle here and there and at a steady pace.
Dolemite Is My Name goes down easy. It’s not overly complex or deep, but it’s not trying to be—it knows what kind of movie it is. It’s a fun, light-hearted film that simply slips by as it transports you to the 70s’. It gives you a few good laughs, some funk tunes to tap your feet to, and a cast of characters you’ll find yourself empathizing with. It may even inspire you to follow your dreams, no matter how lofty or ridiculous they seem to others.
In the real-world, Moore used his character Dolemite mainly and simply to leave the audience feeling good. This biopic mirrors his goal and certainly achieves it.