Dolemite Is My Name ★★★★

Movies 2019 - 280. Dolemite Is My Name (2019; written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski; directed by Craig Brewer)
.
🌮🌮🌮🌮 (4 tacos)
.
Jack of all trades Rudy Ray Moore pursues his dream of making a kung-fu movie. It’s always important to remember Eddie Murphy’s roots. The actor who went on to voice a donkey, play a Klump, and acted in most of Norbit, started off doing stand-up comedy. By today’s cultural code of conduct, Murphy’s act would be enough to get him canceled, but back then, he became an icon. I remember playing his Comedian album on my Walkman on repeat, especially on car rides. I was listening to this blue comedian right under the nose of my parents who would have taken it away from me in a heartbeat if they knew how dirty it was. Murphy’s stand-up gave way to a stint on Saturday Night Live which gave way to a successful film career. Beverly Hills Cop. 48 Hours. Coming To America. You think of Eddie Murphy’s early career, you think iconic 80s comedy. It’s pretty fitting that Murphy be cast as underground comedy/rap legend Rudy Ray Moore. It’s even more fitting that Murphy turns in one of the best performances of his career while doing so.
.
Dolemite Is My Name is the story of Moore’s rise to stardom, capped off with his quest to make an oddball Kung-fu film. Moore’s thoughts were that a film featuring a predominantly black cast would bring black audiences to the theater in ways that hadn’t been seen before. Black audiences were growing tired of film after film after film of all white casts telling all white stories with all white jokes. Moore wanted representation before it was a buzz word, and he knew the best way to get it was to do it himself, even if that task was beyond daunting. Somehow, in the face of ridiculously massive obstacles, Moore turned Dolemite into one of the most successful films of that year, and cemented his legacy as a sort of onscreen superhero and comedy legend.
.
This film’s greatest success is in Murphy’s performance and his steadfast commitment to it. If you are at all familiar with Rudy Ray Moore and Murphy’s early work, you may not instantly imagine him as a caring, sensitive soul. Somehow Murphy is able to embolden Moore with a real sense of heart and care. He nails the comedy, yes, but because his Moore is so genuinely connected to the entire world of this film, every relationship and character and moment truly matter. Murphy’s love, care, and compassion make this performance unlike anything he has done before. It makes you want to see more roles like this out of Murphy as often as possible because you know he can do it.
.
The supporting cast is also delightful. Keegan-Michael Key and Titus Burgess are particularly good, as are Mike Epps and Craig Robinson. The big time standouts, though, are Wesley Snipes and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Snipes is great as an eccentric film actor, D’Urville. The energy he brings to this role is something really different for Snipes, though you can see a little hint of Simon Phoenix and Nino Brown in there peeking through the surface. Randolph, though, is nothing short of spectacular. Her Lady Reed practically steals every scene she is in. She doesn’t just hold her own with established stars, she teaches them a thing or two about natural onscreen charisma. This is the kind of performance that turns actors into stars, and hopefully she is recognized as such.
.
This is a movie that is surprisingly loaded with heart. I love movies about movies, but when those movies about movies have, at their core, a sensitive and touching story about determination and the triumph of someone higher society has cast off as a failure, I am sold. Dolemite Is My Name is a pretty fantastic yarn about a passion project. Like most Netflix films, it visually feels a bit flat, but everything else about this film causes it to soar onto my list of favorite films of the year so far.