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Eddie Murphy Does The Best Work Of His Career In “Dolemite Is My Name”

For Eddie Murphy, the last decade or so has been a barren one in terms of a cinematic output. On the one hand, that has robbed us of one of our greatest comedic actors. On the other, it has managed to make his “return” here with Dolemite Is My Name into a real event. Luckily, Murphy’s presence is far from the only thing to praise about this movie. Netflix has a real crowdpleaser and potential awards player on their hands here. For nearly two hours, this flick is largely a delight. Most of you will see it on the streaming service in a few weeks, but today it hits a handful of theaters and truly deserves to be seen in that manner.

The film is a biopic of Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy), who too few people are aware of. It’s not a stretch to say that he’s a seminal figure not just in cinema, in particular blaxploitation, but also in the rap field, all but inspiring the art form. However, when we meet him, he’s a struggling would be star, hoping to sell his musical records. He switches to comedy, adopting the persona of Dolemite from the local bums around town. His raunchy comedy album is a hit, sold out of the trunk of his car, but soon he wants to transition to movies. No one wants this, but Rudy is undeterred, pulling together a cast and crew with the force of his will, including a co-star in Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a director in D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), and more. It’s a slapdash production, but quality be damned, Rudy is going to turn Dolemite, and in turn, himself, into a movie star. A 1970’s blaxploitation phenomena would eventually be the result. Craig Brewer directs a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, while co-stars here for Murphy include Tituss Burgess, Snoop Dogg, Mike Epps, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and more. Eric Steelberg handles the cinematography, while the score comes from Scott Bomar. Ruth E. Carter contributes the costumes.

Underdog stories like this are almost always a joy to watch, provided they’re done right. In the capable hands of director Craig Brewer, along with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Eddie Murphy is allowed to shine, portraying a man desperate to be famous in a way that only a truly famous individual can. He’s clearly digging deep and looking back on the days before his stardom to find the inspiration here. It’s a terrific to see. Even beyond Murphy, the costumes by Ruth E. Carter are wonderful, the supporting turns from Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes are massively effective, and the overall vibe is just rife with fun. If enough Academy members see this flick, it stands to be a solid Oscar player.

Dolemite Is My Name is further proof that Alexander and Karaszewski are among the best in the business when it comes to unusual biopic topics. Between this, Ed Wood, and The People vs Larry Flynt, they have an incredible eye for oddball subjects. The humanity they bring to a larger than life figure, which Murphy doubles down on, is truly something to behold. The performance and the script are pitch perfect. Brewer’s pacing could be a little tighter, leading to some potential for the third act to feel drawn out, but that’s a decidedly small quibble.

Now in limited release, Dolemite Is My Name deserves to be seen on the big screen. Don’t wait for it hit Netflix at the end of the month. Whether this becomes an Academy Award nominated work is almost besides the point. It’s just a fun, well made, and even inspiring movie. Anyone who enjoyed The Disaster Artist will see a cinematic cousin here. The film is more than just a showcase for Murphy, though any fan of his will be delighted. Make time for this one. You won’t regret it…

Be sure to check out Dolemite Is My Name, now in select theaters and streaming on Netflix on the 25th!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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