He’s back. No Eddie Murphy never actually went away, but he’s definitely back.
Rudy (Murphy), pushing for a late career surge, finds his groove in comedy in hopes of landing on the big screen; soon transforming into 1970’s blaxploitation-era Dolemite whom Murphy and no end of stars have sourced inspiration.
Dolemite is the SNL veteran’s best on-screen role in 21 years; following Bowfinger the comedian, save Shrek and passingly Tower Heist, has made some terrible choices. Marrying his outrageous comic showmanship with the more dramatic sensibilities he brought to bear in the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy and better yet Coming to America, yes this film is crass but that’s the point.
Exhibiting the entertainment industry’s historic reticence to promote endearing if outwardly crass stylings, a sticking point for Murphy in his depiction, Dolemite Is My Name coyly notes the ‘family-friendly’ Bill Cosby. This like of commentary is a very direct jab that but for the evident esteem with which Murphy holds Rudy and the broad direction of his depiction herein doesn’t rear its head again.
There’s an abundance of entertaining sequences as Rudy shoots Dolemite’s first picture; recreating with great affection and care many well-known, extremely DIY vignettes. The hilarious staging of a sex scene and its planning is an especial highlight, as are some of Rudy’s affectionateinteractions with fans. Mirroring The Disaster Artist in respects, for those who are not so familiar with Rudy’s filmography, this author among them, it isn’t too difficult to follow along and it is indeed a joy to be exposed, lovingly, to the staging of these famously low-budget sequences for the very first time.
Turning to the casting, Wesley Snipes is best in tow as scene stalwart D’Urville Martin, with Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and a central cast turning in good performances alongside Snoop Dogg and Chris Rock in briefer roles. Keegan-Michael Key fares less well playing the straight man who isn’t so taken with Rudy’s sex-heavy approach to movies. It’s hard not to see the ubiquitous comedian near winking at the screen as his bristles of indignation nigh mask how much of a ball he’s having; think Sam the Eagle in that Muppets Jungle Boogie sketch.
Great fun, a caring ode to filmmaking and Murphy’s best in years, Dolemite’s got a lot going for it.
Dolemite Is My Name is now streaming on Netflix