Review: Dolemite is My Name
Dolemite is My Name has one selling point for its mass market, and one selling point only. After years in the shadows, hiding away from good movies and deserving roles, Eddie Murphy makes his return to the screen in the biopic of the late comedian Rudy Ray Moore who managed to turn street talk into comedy gold. Showing his highs, lows and willpower to succeed, Dolemite is My Name is a glimpse into the aptly titled “Godfather of Rap”, and how his rough beginnings formed a stupendous career.
With the film deeply rooted in the blaxploitation era of film, the likes of Foxy Brown, Shaft in Africa and Blackenstein are given nicely timed name drops throughout. Murphy brings Moore to life in a superb leading role that highlights some incredible acting abilities. He doesn’t seem to have missed a beat, slipping right back into the R-Rated leading comedian he was best known for in the highs of his 80s days. With a resoundingly well-presented cast backing him up, it’s nigh on impossible to not have a good time with this performance.
But Dolemite is My Name doesn’t just herald the return of one great actor, it also heralds the return of a ‘just okay’ actor… Wesley Snipes.
His days of direct to DVD releases and tax evasion seemingly over, his career comeback is kept in the shadow of Murphy’s resoundingly brilliant lead. Oddly forgettable at times, but other moments see him leaping into successful pieces of content. It’s a mixed bag for Snipes, and surprisingly it’s not due to his strange performance, but the scenes he is given. He isn’t given much space to grow, nor is he well suited to his role, but it’s quite nice to see what he provides the role, albeit minimum.
Outside of Murphy’s performance, there are a nice handful of great performances that fluff up certain scenes. Expected familiar faces crop up due to their ties with Netflix, or at least that’s the only explanation I have for Bob Odenkirk and Keegan Michael-Key showing up out of the blue. Mike Epps also presents us with the reason he’s been able to click with supporting roles, but not with leading man suits in a moderately successful supporting role. At times, it feels like the cast themselves are guiding the film’s direction, helmed by Craig Brewer, a man responsible for the abysmal remake of Footloose, an already abysmal 80s classic.
In that case, the direction of Brewer being completely insignificant to the success of the film certainly makes sense to some degree. His efforts here are minimum, your standard biopic filler intercut with montage shots, a hell of a good soundtrack and the evidently expected abilities of a stacked ensemble. Nicely rounded mini roles for the likes of Snoop Dogg add that needed modernisation and edge that the film requires to work with the demographic of today, a nice link from present to past.
It’s hard not to feel completely euphoric to see Eddie Murphy back on his A-Game in another superb starring role. His actions here have a sense of warmth to him, playing a person he truly understands. Dolemite is My Name isn’t just an enjoyable awards tip for Murphy, it’s a genuinely entertaining and informative piece of film that hopes to shine a larger light on the underappreciated Blaxpolitation genre of film. A hearty recommendation to those wanting to learn more about that subject, or simply for those that want to watch one of the best films this year has to offer.