The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

NTXFF - Dolemite is My Name

Director Craig Brewer’s biopic, “Dolemite is My Name,” is a rather straight-forward biography story. While Brewer’s film may not be a fresh take on the genre, it does offer something that many movies lack – an uproarious energy that parallels its subjects’ spirit.

“Dolemite is My Name” tells of the rise of Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy), who works as an assistant manager at a record store when the movie starts. He’s a man who’s been bitten by the celebrity bug, currently moonlighting as an emcee at a night club, but lacks the talent to get noticed. That is until he gets some inspiration. When a bum comes into the store, spouting out rhymes, Rudy gets the idea to create a character based on the homeless population’s tales and their delivery of them. The end result is his famous character Dolemite.

Murphy is perfect in the role, giving his performance a manic energy that finely parallels the desperation of Moore, washed up before ever being given a chance. But the birth of Dolemite is just the start of Rudy’s journey. Rudy works on exploiting the popularity of his new character, recording a party record and selling it out of his truck. Before he knows it, he’s caught the eye of a record label, leading to more success. But it’s not until he and some friends go to a screening of Billy Wilder’s remake of “The Front Page,” raved as being the “it” comedy to see by critics but not even eliciting a chuckle from his group, that Rudy decides to use the character to make the type of movie he wants to see.

The creation of the “Dolemite” movie is the main focus of Brewer’s film. Moore is shown to be a hustler, a smooth-talker who works his tail off to get his work off the ground. If he was working hard before – trying to make it as a singer, then as a stand-up comic – he’s working even harder now. Hiring friends to start off his crew – singer Ben Taylor (Craig Robinson), comedy protégé Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), and cashier Theodore (Tituss Burgess) – before wooing talent from outside his immediate circle – writer Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key) and actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), famous to the group for being the elevator operator in “Rosemary’s Baby,” who jumps at the chance to direct the movie. Snipes nearly steals the movie away from Murphy with his over-the-top performance as the hoity-toity actor too good for Moore’s film. He presents Martin as an actor who’s slumming it in order to get a chance at directing.

There’s an infectious energy present as Rudy and his ragtag group of filmmakers work to create their ideal motion picture, making the film with the people they know around the neighborhood as their target audience. As Rudy puts it leaving “The Front Page,” “film critics don’t know how to have fun.” Brewer’s movie is fun, an absolute blast to watch. It does flounder a bit in areas – the problems that arise during production are a little too quickly solved and Moore’s editing and compiling of a final cut of “Dolemite” is completely ignored – but it makes up for its discrepancies with its breakneck pacing. In addition, the jokes fly at the audience at a steady rate, not a problem in itself, but this causes the slower spots to stand out more.

The biggest issue with this movie is that, for those of us who haven’t seen “Dolemite,” it spoils many of the gags from that film. It would probably be better to view Moore’s movie before viewing Brewer’s. If you don’t care about having another work spoiled, or have no desire to see it (you might after watching this), “Dolemite is My Name” plays perfectly fine without any homework. It’s distributed by Netflix so there’s no reason this shouldn’t become a familiar title.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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