It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for the return of Eddie Murphy. Well, the wait is officially over. With Dolemite Is My Name, we get the return of one of the greatest comics of all time, and he brings one hell of a good film with him too.
Craig Brewer, who has directed films such as 2011’s Footloose remake and 2005’s Hustle & Flow, directs this comedy biopic. And while his work is thoroughly competent, I found that it lacked the zip and swagger that the man at the story’s center deserved. Brewer knows how to keep the film moving along, and paces out story beats well, but it felt like something was missing throughout. The characters and design are so alive, and it makes the direction seem tame by comparison. Nothing overtly bad here, but it feels underwhelming given how much charisma the rest of the film has.
Dolemite Is My Name tells the story of Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy), a comedian/singer/dancer who just wants to make it big. In his efforts, he stumbles upon an act that brings him some fame and decides to take it all the way to Hollywood. This film has a bit of everything. It’s a biopic, an underdog story, and a celebration of the special kind of rebellion art provides. While nothing in the film strays too far from biopic conventions, Rudy’s quest for stardom is impossible to ignore or be against. The film balances comedy and frustration well, building to a predictable but nonetheless rousing finale. It’s also just a damn good time.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
This film’s cast is stacked, but we know who we’re all here to see. Eddie Murphy gives a proper return to form in this film with an equally hilarious and heartfelt performance that’ll have you rooting for him from the start. His portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore is so easy to enjoy, and Murphy brings layers to the icon. It’s a fantastic performance that should not be missed. Other standouts include Wesley Snipes in a hilarious role as the pretentious director of “Dolemite” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, a friend of Rudy’s who steals every scene she’s in. Rounding out the cast are Keegan-Michael Key, Tituss Burgess, Craig Robinson, and Mike Epps, who all turn in solid work.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
This film boasts a downright funky soundtrack. There are so many toe-tapping, hip-shaking, and dance-worthy songs on here that you may find yourself grooving right along with them. This film is very much about a certain time, and the music very much contributes to that.
The costumes in this film are fantastic. Rudy’s over the top persona is perfectly captured with colorful suits and plenty of accessories, giving him and every other character plenty of extra presence. The film also has great design, bringing the era back to life with all the style it deserves. It all serves to immerse you in this look at Rudy’s life.
Hilarious, heartfelt, and full of swagger, Dolemite Is My Name is a celebration of underdogs who never stop fighting for their dreams. With a great set of performances led by a brilliant Eddie Murphy turn, as well as a funky soundtrack and great costumes, this film overcomes its lackluster direction and gives us one of the year’s most entertaining films. Dig it.