Eddie Murphy, where ya been? It’s been too long. If you love vintage Eddie Murphy (think Coming To America and Trading Places), you are going to love Dolemite Is My Name. The film, now available on Netflix, tells the story of Rudy Ray Moore, the man who developed the character of Dolemite in the 70s, first as a standup act and then in a wild romp through the blaxploitation films of the era.
This movie is an 80s legend telling the story of a 70s legend. Rudy tried to make it as a singer, a dancer, a lame standup comic. None of it took off, and, as the movie tells us, he was told he had missed his chance in life. But Rudy Ray was not a man to take no for an answer.
Dolemite became a pimped out hero with raunchy rhymes that made Redd Foxx seem like he was teaching Sunday School. Eddie embodies this character superbly. Even if you’re not familiar with Rudy Ray, his character or what he looked like, you believe Eddie is this person. I never once felt like I was watching Murphy try to be a character. I believed from frame one that I was watching the actual Moore.
The movie spends the first thirty minutes skimming through the process of going from nobody to somebody. Not a lot of detail and I’m sure it oversimplifies things. The bulk of the movie is spent on his precarious attempt to make a Dolemite movie. It’s here that we see him develop bonds with people, connecting with the supporting cast. Even though I already knew the outcome, I was still unsure what would happen and was rooting for him.
When a movie can evoke those feelings, you have a winner.
Eddie got a who’s who of african-american stars to show up. Craig Robinson, Keegan Michael-Key, Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps. Even Snoop Dogg is there. Rudy Ray inspired Snoop’s raps, and in his collaboration with Dr. Dre on Nuthin’ But A G Thang, he sings ‘Pimpin’ hoes and clockin’ a grip like my name was Dolemite.’
But despite the all-star cast, there is really only one star, and that’s Eddie Murphy. You get the feeling that everyone just wanted to do a movie with him and were glad to sign on. Who could blame them?
If there is one serious flaw in the movie, it’s that it’s a complete rah-rah film for Moore. I’m sure he had a lot of flaws, but we see none of them here. It misses a chance to give some depth and new dimension for Eddie to explore.
More To Come
Ed recently appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and is working on his comeback standup special, both on Netflix. This is really a perfect marriage. Netflix gets a big, beloved name, and Eddie gets a deep-pocketed partner with plenty of platforms to help him regain A-List stature.
He’s also finished Coming To America 2, and a new Beverly Hills Cop has been announced, plus he’s returning to Saturday Night Live. He’ll host the Christmas episode on December 21. Eddie recently told Jimmy Kimmel he will reprise some of his iconic SNL characters including Gumby and possibly Velvet Jones and Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. I’d like to suggest James Brown’s Heavenly Hot Tub Party.
While it’s great that we are getting to revisit some of our favorite characters of the era, I also hope he has one more new character to introduce to the zeitgeist.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
This is a hard one. I wanted to pour one of Rudy’s favorite cocktails, but turns out Mr. Moore didn’t drink! So I’ll pop a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and toast the return of Eddie Murphy.
I’ll then use the rest of the bottle for my Mimosas at brunch. Heavy on the Mim, light on the Osa!