Dolemite Is My Name ★★★★½

The Letterboxd Era Catch-Up 4: 53 Days a Slave

I've got a theory about Eddie Murphy.

I reckon the reason people have been increasingly mad at him over the course of the last, what, 25+ years for repeatedly making bad movies is not actually just because he's repeatedly made bad movies. It's actually because they don't understand *why* he's made them.

People just want to know how the guy who had the run of films that he had between 1982 and about 1992 has ended up making some of the films that he has since then. The belief seems to be with many people that he's blind to how bad they have been, like the guy who made Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places, among others, couldn't see that Norbit and Meet Dave were complete shit.

Maybe he actually just enjoys making movies. Maybe he just wanted to keep making money. Maybe the scripts stopped being as good as they used to be. Maybe Hollywood moved on to the next big thing. Maybe it's all of the above and more besides. Because nobody's forced anybody's arse into the cinema to watch Imagine That, after all. But some act like it's a affront to them that he hasn't made many good films for a long time.

In a way, as much as Dolemite Is My Name is a true delight and as great as Murphy is in it, I almost hope that it's a bit of a false dawn. That he goes back to making shitty movies again, just to piss people off all over again. It's his life, his talent, go and watch something else if it's not to your liking. It's not to my liking either, but I just rewatch 48 Hrs.

So, call Dolemite Is My Name a comeback or a return to form or whatever you want, but making a bigger issue out of it than it being one of the best films of the year and possibly Netflix's best original film yet might be foolish. Mind you, those two are pretty big issues anyway, and more than enough to be going along with.

Simultaneously a critique / satire and tribute to filmmaking and the movie industry, Craig Brewer overcomes a possible stumble quite early on by making Murphy's Rudy Ray Moore such a positive and admirably determined character. After all, you could argue that the film here portrays him as having pretty much stolen his act. That being said, everything that happens thereafter is down to his own hard work and determination.

That celebration of Moore's determination and also his understanding of his limitations as a performer are really key to how charming Brewer and Murphy make him seem, and a huge reason as to why this was so enjoyable. Sure, the supporting cast are terrific, one and all, especially Wesley Snipes and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, but without the drive in making Moore such an engaging and likeable character, there wouldn't be nearly as much here to admire.

Needless to say the soundtrack is fantastic, and an excellent little observation on white guys typecast as villains in blaxploitation films really does show a sharpness to the script that can easily be missed amongst the many laughs and memorable scenes. Utterly terrific.