Iconic actor Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore in his vulgar, yet entertaining, return to the Hollywood spotlight in the Netflix biographical drama “Dolemite Is My Name.”
This crass, raunchy comedy directed by Craig Brewer follows the life of Rudy, a black man who dreams of stardom and bringing black actors to the silver screen. After years of struggle, Rudy assumes the character of Dolemite and takes the stage as a comedian, something Murphy fans have not seen in a long time.
However, Murphy’s jokes aren’t followed by the ba dum tss of a drum kit. Rather, Rudy, dressed in pimp attire, borrows jokes from Vaudeville days and refines them into a comedic song. His jokes explicitly lay out topics like beastiality, but they rhyme like Dr. Seuss.
After gaining significant recognition, Rudy decides to take his career to the next level and invest his fortune in a film about his persona entitled “Dolemite.” For the film, he makes wild demands to weave kung fu, nudity and comedy into a story about the inner city and accomplishes it. When the movie reaches Hollywood-level success, reviewers bash the film because it sucks. But Rudy doesn’t care. He has people lined up down the street to see it.
Unlike Rudy’s film, “Dolemite Is My Name” does not suck, as long as audiences are okay with hearing the word motherf----- in every sentence and watching Murphy get naked.
The story does more than travel back to the 1970s via costume and set design. It shows the complexity of race throughout the entertainment industry. When Rudy and his friends see comedy film “The Front Page,” they are confused as to why the movie was not funny and did not showcase any black actors. In another scene, the film highlights the era of blaxploitation, where surface-level black characters like Blacula (black Dracula) were created in Hollywood to appeal to black audiences.
The film’s well-developed characters juxtapose the era of blaxploitation well. Rudy is more than a fame-hungry man. Throughout the film, he displays humility and expresses childhood trauma alongside his drive for excellence.
Even smaller roles are well-developed and well-portrayed, thanks to star actors. Keegan-Michael Key plays Jerry Jones, the film writer for “Dolemite” and creates a deep, virtuous creative that acts as a foil to Rudy. D’Urville Martin is played by Wesley Snipes, and he humorously brings a karate background to a karate-deficient character. Even Chris Rock and Snoop Dogg bring their A-game for their roles as radio hosts.
The use of lighting adds to the depth of the film, creating a beautiful aesthetic while adding to the story. Rudy’s world goes from small spotlights and lightbulb-lit rooms to neon lights and marquees. This, paired with the clever cinematography, shows audiences that a black narrative film by Netflix, a streaming company that has historically received less funding and notoriety, can be of high quality.
“Dolemite Is My Name” reminds audiences that Rudy Ray Moore and Eddie Murphy are powerful, black men with a story to tell. Though their careers date back to the late 80s and 90s, their names are relevant still today.
They are f---ing timeless.