Dolemite Is My Name: A Real M*therf*ckin' Delight
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) brings Rudy Ray Moore’s incredible and inspirational story to wide audiences with Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name. The film illuminates viewers on the hilarity and importance of Moore and his beloved Dolemite character, but most of all, it gives us the kind of quality Eddie Murphy performance that audiences haven’t seen in a very long time.
Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.
Part Ed Wood and part The Disaster Artist, Dolemite Is My Name is a tale of outsider triumph that champions Rudy Ray Moore’s gumption and entrepreneurial spirit, carrying with it the inspirational message of following your dreams — no matter how bonkers and seemingly out of reach they may be. It finds the perfect equilibrium between being an entry point for the uninitiated and a joyous romp for those long time fans of Moore/Dolemite, and it manages to be informative on both fronts. Instead of limiting itself strictly to Moore’s Dolemite character, it keeps its focus firmly on Moore himself — his artistic formation, struggle, and stranger-than-fiction misfit success story — which paints a pretty complete picture that accurately captures his lovably brash essence.
Not the most talented artist by a long shot, Moore had a brazen belief in himself and his dreams that allowed him to transcend all the odds. Like many African Americans in the Blaxploitation era, Moore had to forge his own path to infiltrate the industry, assembling his own cast and crew, and finding creative ways to cut corners and turn ambition into fruition. Despite the amateurish and clumsy quality to his films that came as a result, its Moore’s charisma that floats his projects and still makes them a hoot to watch today. However, Moore’s biggest claim is his incorporation of profanity-fueled rhyme into his dialogue and delivery, making him one of the earliest cited influences to hip-hop. Needless to say, Moore holds a special place in the hearts of rappers, who are the primary source of keeping his memory alive, and earning the nickname "the Godfather of Rap.”
There’s very little wonder that Moore’s biopic turned out as good as it did, when you realize Larry Karaszewski authored the screenplay. Karaszewski has a clear knack for assembly biography-based stories, and he’s written some of the best biopics ever made (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon, and The People Vs. Larry Flynt being the three that instantly spring to mind). Though the scope of the film is fairly large, Karaszewski keeps the story controlled, packing it tightly with information (some of which we weren’t aware of, like how Moore assembled the Dolemite character out of tall tales from street bums or how crucial Indiana was to Dolemite’s financial success) and filling it full of heart and inspiration. Karaszewski also condenses some aspects of Moore’s history, mixing in aspects of The Human Tornado with Dolemite and including a classic line from The Disco Godfather, which helps to give fans and newcomers a solid collection of Moore’s greatest moments.
With Eddie Murphy at the forefront, the film’s incredible cast, including Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, and Da'Vine Joy Randolph (just to name a few), really takes everything to another level. They all clearly love and respect Moore and are having a blast. The fun is infectious and really radiates off screen. Murphy doesn’t look or sound much like Moore, but he very easily captures his spirit and has moments where he seems to embody Moore totally (take the recreation of the Dolemite “Drive” scene for example). Wesley Snipes is also really fantastic as uppity D'Urville Martin, who believes Moore’s production is beneath his Hollywood heels, but outside of Murphy, it’s Da'Vine Joy Randolph who gives the film its heart and soul as Lady Reed, a full-figured woman who never saw someone like herself on screen.
The costumes and set design complete the film’s atmosphere, and they transport L.A. back to the 70s in the same respects that Tarantino transported us all to the late 60s with Once Upon a Time. The loud and flashy costumes were such an integral to the blaxploitation films of the 70s, and they really add a nice layer here, keeping the period feel alive at every turn.
Overall, Dolemite Is My Name is a really motherf*ckin’ delight! It tells Moore’s story in a wholly entertaining and comprehensive way that champions the legacy he worked so hard to accomplish. Though his Dolemite character was ice cold and cool as a cucumber, the film shows how much stress Moore operated under and how many people depended on him, and it’s amazing that Moore didn’t collapse under the pressure (saying, “Put yo’ weight on it!”). The film is a testament to the things you can achieve when you believe in yourself and the importance of inclusion (whether it’s cultural, racial, or body type), and it’s satisfying as hell, filling you with joy, inspiration, and the want to do something creative.
Recommendation: Who doesn’t love a good triumphant story about an underdog? Plus, everyone has Netflix (or someone else’s login creds), so what are you waiting for?! Just shut up and watch this motherf*cker already!
Rating: 4 motherf*ckin’ machine gun bursts outta 5.
What do you think? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!