Maciek J. Pradziad ’23
In Craig Brewer’s biopic Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy makes the comeback of a lifetime by playing the part of Rudy Ray Moore, real-life comedian and blaxploitation filmmaker. This performance was heightened by a star-studded cast of supporting characters that played off the energy and charm of Murphy, coming together in comedic harmony with fluid moving cinematography by Eric Steelberg. What screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski fail to deliver in a gripping story with conflict and consequence, they make up with in laughs and an interesting insight into the world of comedy and filmmaking.
The plot of Dolemite Is My Name revolves around Rudy Ray Moore, an up and coming comedian trying to make it to stardom by being an everyman like Sammy Davis. However, after discovering the world of vulgar humor, an early form of what would be known as “rap,” and realizing that he wanted to become the entertainment powerhouse for the black community, Moore decides to don the alter ego Dolemite and set the world on fire through his stand-up and blaxploitation films.
The visual presentation of Dolemite Is My Name truly captured the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film in a perfect balance that felt completely natural. The camera movement was never so stylistic that it took away from the hilarious performances of standouts like Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randoloph as Lady Reed, and Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin. Steelberg did a fantastic job of capturing the chemistry between various combinations of these three actors alone by capturing their lively facial expressions and body movements. He was also able to heighten scenes of financial drama for Moore by dollying the camera ever so slowly towards him and forcing the audience to feel the immense pressure of success and fame that was suffocating him throughout the film. This brilliant execution also showcased Murphy’s dramatic acting skills as he brought depth to a character that could’ve been played comically throughout without another thought to his struggles with rejection, finances, and self-confidence.
Although Murphy was able to bring out the drama in his performance, I felt that the screenplay didn’t have enough conflict to make his struggles more fleshed out, real, and gripping. It seemed that any issues Moore faced were solved within two minutes of screen time and never brought up again. Nothing ever came back to haunt Moore except his ambition, which was used to comedic effect and explored on a surface level. This prevents the audience from having a feeling of excitement and anxiety as they wait to see what choices Moore would be forced to make to continue his career. The film’s writing also felt unsubtle at times when handling exposition and issues such as representation in film, opting for the approach of telling the audience directly through dialogue instead of showing it visually. For all of these issues, the film had very clever bits of dialogue and outrageous sequences that will make you laugh out loud. Rudy Moore is written excellently and is an extremely empathetic main character that gives the film a heartfelt quality to it that makes it worth sitting through.
Dolemite Is My Name is a hilarious biopic worth seeing for the performances alone because of the chemistry built around the entire cast of wonderfully weird characters. Although it isn’t perfect, it is a vulgar, feel-good movie that will spark the inner dreamer in your heart and inspire you to chase after your true passions in life.
This film is available to stream with a Netflix subscription.