Dolemite Is My Name: Eddie Murphy Is Back

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name. Courtesy of TIFF.

Eddie Murphy is back in classic form with the release of Dolemite Is My Name whether or not it is intended to serve as a comeback vehicle.

What you should probably know going into the film is that Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) decided to change up his comedy/music career because of Rico, a homeless man.  When the film starts out, Moore is working at Dolphin’s of Hollywood and begging a DJ (Snoop Dogg) to play one of his Federal recordings.  Sometime down the line, Moore records the homeless man’s stories and the rest is history.  He records an album that doesn’t play well for record companies because raunchy material is hard to market.  When the Bihari Brothers get wind of Moore, they want to sign him to their company.  Not only do they give him a professional cover but he heads out on the road where he eventually meets Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

Upon watching The Front Page in December 1974, Moore gets the idea to go big.  He’s already a star on the touring circuit by this point so naturally, the next move is either a television series or feature film.  Moore is in over is head.  While at a strip club with friends, they spot D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes).  The first clue that they don’t know anything about making a movie comes then and there.  They try to make a deal on the spot rather than offer through an agent.  Moore soon heads to a local theater to in search of a writer, which he finds in Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key).

It’s been a long time since I saw a film featuring Eddie Murphy with this kind of performance.  Dolemite Is My Name is based on a true story.  If you don’t know this going into the film, you should probably be okay.  Maybe that’s why the film feels like it’s one of those stories that you can’t believe is true.  To say that Murphy gives it his all would not be an understatement.

Let me say this about the Bihari brothers.  The four brothers were of Hungarian-Jewish descent and owned their own record company.  Yet there’s something about the way that they were handled when I watched the film for the first time.  Lester (Kazy Tauginas), Julius (Ivo Nandi), Saul (Michael Peter Bolus, and Joseph (Aleksandar Filimonovic) don’t come off as Jews upon initial viewing.  Whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know.  It’s almost as if the filmmakers are trying to make them appear as being of an Italian background.

Oscar-winning designer Ruth E. Carter makes some excellent choices with the film’s costume design.  The clothing stays true to the era.  Yes, some of these choices may feel loud but it wouldn’t feel authentic otherwise.

Similar to the Uptown Theater premiere of Dolemite, this is the type of film that plays best in a theater and with an audience.  This isn’t to say it won’t play well at home for Netflix viewers.  I’ll just say that there’s certainly something about watching this film with the energy being fed off of the audience.  If it weren’t for the shorter theatrical releases, audiences could probably be able to see films like these playing in more theaters.  The other thing is that a film like this would certainly have hours to offer in terms of bonus content!  How much of Dolemite did they remake or shoot for the film?  Oh well, the times–they are a changing.

There’s a line in the film where Rudy Ray Moore and company are reading reviews of Dolemite in the car.  This line may probably play better with general audiences rather than press.  Basically, it’s one of those “screw the critics” type of lines.  While I admit to a light chuckle because it’s a funny line, I’m curious to see how this line plays for people that aren’t critics.

Dolemite Is My Name gives a legend his due while giving viewers a performance from Eddie Murphy in classic form.

DIRECTOR:  Craig Brewer
SCREENWRITERS:  Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
CAST:  Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Snoop Dogg, Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Tip ‘TI’ Harris, Luenell, Tasha Smith, and Wesley Snipes

Netflix opens Dolemite Is My Name in theaters on October 4, 2019. A streaming release will follow on October 25, 2019. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.