Dolemite Is My Name

Dolemite Is My Name
Directed by Craig Brewer
Starring Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes
Streaming on Netflix from October 25th, 2019

by Alex Plant

There was a period in the 80s where Eddie Murphy was not only one of the biggest stars in Hollywood but also certifiably one of the greatest comedic performers on the planet. That seems like a long time ago and arguably we haven’t had a classic Murphy performance since 1999’s Bowfinger. Dolemite Is My Name, somehow only the fourth film he’s appeared in this decade, is not only a return to form for Murphy as an actor, but is also probably the best film he’s been in for 30 years.

A passion project for Murphy (who also acts as producer), Dolemite Is My Name tells the true story of his friend Rudy Ray Moore, who when we first meet him is a down on his luck, overweight comedian and musician, pushing 50 and relegated to working as a record store manager. After taking some inspiration from some local derelicts, he develops a new character for his act; a smooth-talking pimp named Dolemite. The character proves a hit in comedy clubs and soon Moore cuts himself a record deal, even scoring some chart success with his risqué albums. His ambition leads him to want to make a cinematic vehicle for his creation, in the vein of Shaft, only with more kung fu. Along with his friends, he assembles a rag-tag filmmaking team in order to bring Dolemite to the big screen.

Murphy is fantastic as Moore, effortlessly channelling his charisma and irrepressible enthusiasm. But this isn’t just a retread of familiar ground for the actor. While he exhibits the comic timing and distinctive delivery that made him a star in the 80s, Murphy also delivers a thoughtful performance and it’s in the scenes where he’s rehearsing his Dolemite schtick alone that we get to see the vulnerable side of this great showman. It’s also highly enjoyable to see Wesley Snipes back in something credible, following on from his excellent cameo in the What We Do In The Shadows series. The rest of the supporting cast are excellent and all look absolutely phenomenal in Ruth E. Carter’s sumptuous costumes, which are dripping with 70s cool.

If there’s one criticism that could be levelled toward Dolemite Is My Name it’s that it shares structural similarities with films like The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood, and perhaps at times feels a little too similar to those movies. Though it seems this was intentional, as Murphy actively sought out Ed Wood scribes Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski as he felt they would do justice to Moore’s story, based on their respectful yet entertaining treatment of Edward D. Wood Jr.

Dolemite Is My Name is a success on nearly every level and it’s beyond great to see Murphy back at his best. It’s encouraging that Murphy is reuniting with director Craig Brewer for next year’s sequel the John Landis classic Coming To America. With Snipes also involved in that project as well, let’s hope this is the beginning of a new golden age of Eddie Murphy comedies.


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