Fantastic Fest 2019 Review: DOLEMITE IS MY NAME

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

As always, the Fantastic Fest lineup this year featured two secret screenings for their eager attendees. Given that Netflix had such a formidable presence at the film festival this year, it wasn’t too surprising that one of their more highly anticipated entries was the first secret offering. And it definitely was an offering that went over well with Fantastic Fest’s audiences. Well, it is with much pleasure that I can say Eddie Murphy is officially back!

The popular comedic actor from the 80s stars in the lead role of this winsome biopic and embraces his character with much zeal and bravado. Fans of Murphy have waited a long time for this quality of movie from the actor and it is one that absolutely cred as a comedic rebel and rabble rouser. Though this type of story is all too familiar, director Craig Brewer and his cast take this familiar material and give it a vitality of its own. Dolemite is My Name does take its audiences on a recognizable journey, but is nevertheless a wonderfully fun and exciting one.

Murphy stars as entertainer Rudy Ray Moore, a starving Black entertainment jack of all trades trying just about anything and everything to make it in show business. Having attempted a music career and failed career in comedy, Moore settles for a nightclub gig as an emcee for music acts. It is the era of the 1970s and opportunities are rather limited. That is until Rudy creates a wild, colorful, and profane based on the dirty rhymes of a homeless man he meets. Thus, Dolemite is born! It is a character that not only goes over well at his nightclub, but one that ends up selling comedy albums. However, the ambitious Rudy Ray has his aims set higher as he wishes to take on Hollywood.

Written by Scott Alexander, Larry Kraszewski, and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow), Dolemite is My Name is THE movie and kicking so much ass is its game! Brewer and his writer take a tried, true, but necessarily tiresome underdog movie story and deliver the goods with as much aplomb and gusto as Rudy Ray Moore himself. Filled with delightful characters and a solidly realized story, this film is an absolute blast to watch. One doesn’t even have to be remotely familiar with the Dolemite movies or Rudy Ray Moore to appreciate this joyful underdog story.

Granted, not exactly everyone will enjoy this type of movie. One has to be a fan of blue comedy, such as that of Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, and, of course, Eddie Murphy to truly dig what this movie dishes out. That is mainly why Eddie Murphy is so perfect for this role. He still has the rebellious drive to really bring this role to life and he does so in the most perfect ways. It is a role he was born to play and one in which he excels.

That is not to say that the supporting cast has no say in the matter. Brewer and his casting director have assembled an exceptional supporting cast, most of which is a who’s who of Black comedy. The movie features great work by Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, and Chris Rock. The real standouts among the supporting players are Da ‘Vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes, though.

Randolph stars as Lady Reed, another struggling Black entertainer whom Moore helps by giving her opportunities, both on stage and in his movie. It is a superbly realized and developed character and Randolph puts much heart in to it. As for Snipes, he absolutely kills his role, though it is limited by the writing. Still, Snipes absolutely nails his part as co-star/director D’Urville Martin, a moderately successful actor who reluctantly agrees to help Moore make his movie.

Though not as superbly written and directed as say Ed Wood or The Disaster Artist, Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is My Name gets plenty right to deserve much praise and love. It is also a pure joy to see what Eddie Murphy does so well again. It is a movie I must highly recommend whether one decides to see it on the big screen or in the comfort of one’s home on Netflix.

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