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– by Daniel Tafoya

In Dolemite is My Name, Eddie Murphy shows that he is back! Playing Rudy Ray Moore, the creator and star of the blaxploitation classic Dolemite, Murphy gives his best performance in years and reminds viewers how talented he is and what heights he’s capable of reaching in the right role.

Rudy Ray Moore was a struggling comedian until he came up with the character of Dolemite, a badass, rhyme talking, funky walking pimp. He achieved stand up and comedy record success as the character before he decided to attempt the transition to the big screen. The majority of the movie portrays that struggle, as Moore and an eclectic cast of characters assembled around him do their best to make a movie without much in the way of budget or filmmaking experience. That the resultant film, warts and all, achieved success and ended up with two sequels is nothing short of a miracle.

As a longtime fan of Murphy, it was great to see him return to the big screen, as I saw the film theatrically. Most will see it on Netflix, but either way, since this is only his fifth film in the past decade, it’s great to see him acting again. Murphy is called upon to do more than just play the broad humor required of him for the past two decades by his many family film roles. To also see him get to drop F-bombs and use adult language is a treat, as that’s how we know Murphy’s humor in its purest form, his stand up comedy.

Rudy Ray Moore has to struggle to achieve his eventual success, and we take that ride with him, from record store clerk to blaxploitation movie stardom. Along with Moore for that journey are Da’Vine Joy Randolph, as a female comic he discovers along the way and whose career he nurtures, and Keegan Michael-Key as his overqualified, university professor screenwriter. Shining through all of the supporting players though, is Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin, a successful actor whom Moore hires to direct Dolemite. Snipes’ portrayal is one of extravagant flamboyance and is a choice that is rewarded with many laughs.

Craig Brewer directs the film in a fashion that renders it almost a musical. Club scenes and plentiful montages are all soundtracked by a 70s hit soundtrack that keeps the film bumping. It’s in keeping with the musicality of his previous movies, such as Hustle and Flow and Footloose, and turns out to be a great and entertaining choice.

Written by the biopic kings, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it’s not surprising that the movie gracefully balances both humor and drama. They’ve more than capably straddled that line before, in Ed Wood and Man on the Moon. They’re not without fail in their biopic efforts, take Big Eyes for example, but they do have a pretty good batting average, including this movie.

Dolemite Is My Name makes one appreciate more both Eddie Murphy and Rudy Ray Moore. In the role of a lifetime, and one he has long coveted, Murphy shows you Moore and his journey to success. That ride is a wild one, and I’m very glad it was portrayed cinematically for all to enjoy.

Recommended if you liked: Ed Wood, Hustle and Flow, Dolemite

FINAL GRADE: A

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