The trials and tribulations of comedy and rap legend Rudy Ray Moore are equally entertaining and illuminating in this outrageous biopic.
IMDB Synopsis: 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.
Dolemite Is My Name is a raucous, obscene, and at many times intimate tribute to the late Rudy Ray Moore and his outsized influence on blaxploitation films, early rap, and comedy culture in the 1970s and ‘80s. Scarcely seen on the big screen of late, Eddie Murphy gives a powerhouse performance as Moore that’s all at once desperate, hilarious, and a genuine embodiment of Moore’s never-say-die attitude. It’s a wonderfully told tale of a comedian who reinvented himself to adapt to the changing times to become a larger than life figure that influenced a generation of culture.
We open to a middle aged Rudy Ray Moore who is down on his luck: An assistant manager at a record shop in LA after spending his life trying to become famous and/or successful, first as an R&B singer then as a comedian. Realizing that he must adapt or continue to struggle, Moore reinvents himself as an obscene and streetwise act, based on wild tales he’d heard from aged pimps and homeless. With some small successes in night clubs, Moore doubles down and records x-rated comedy albums set at house parties that give his sound an original authenticity. His signature “rappin’ and tappin’” cadence and outrageous material made him an underground hit and cult classic in the making.
It’s when Moore decides to make a movie based on his comedy persona is when the film really starts cooking. With no idea of how to make a film, money dubiously advanced from his record label, and a heaping of can-do desperation, Moore assembles his crew to make the titular Dolemite Is My Name. Leaning on his best friend Jimmy (Mike Epps) for wardrobe, Ben (Craig Robinson) for soundtrack, Toney (Tituss Burgess) for accounting, they set out to make a movie, blissfully unaware of the difficulty. They employ the culturally mature and artistic Jerry (Keegan Michael Key) to write, stumble on actor/director D’Urville Martin (a fantastic Wesley Snipes) at a strip club, and employ college student Nick (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to DP. The entire sequence is dripping with entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance, showing Moore’s sheer force of will to bring his brand of comedy to the masses.
Despite being based on a true story, the critical takeaway is that Moore and co. triumphed over an industry that didn’t think their brand of entertainment (both the film and record industries) was viable. The legacy of Rudy Ray Moore is that of believing in, and betting on, yourself. That while you might have to take the long way round to achieve your dreams, don’t ever stop dreaming. Watch Dolemite Is My Name and witness the power of that belief.
Highlights: The entire movie is a highlight. Rudy Ray Moore’s life was tinged with sadness but buttressed by incredible highs and his ultimate triumph.
MVP: Eddie Murphy as Rudy. Played to perfection, Murphy hits all the notes of a the icon. Bonus MVP goes to Wesley Snipes with an inspired performance.
Should you see it: Yes. Absolutely. 9/10.
Director: Craig Brewer
Studio: Netflix // Original release date: November 1, 2019