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With: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Aleksandar Filimonović, Tip "T.I." Harris, Chris Rock, Ron Cephas Jones, Luenell, Gerald Downey, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Snoop Dogg
Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Directed by: Craig Brewer
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
Running Time: 117
Date: 09/04/2019

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Digging It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This biographical comedy follows the familiar beats of similar showbiz-related movies, but its rambunctious, playfully vulgar sense of humor and infectious can-do attitude make it a satisfying winner.

In Dolemite Is My Name, Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is working at a record shop while his attempts at being a singer fade away and his career as a comic is flailing. One day he notices a local homeless man who tells outrageous stories in rhyme, including one about a black hero named "Dolemite," and he decides to incorporate these into his act. The new direction is a big hit, and his comedy records even begin to hit the charts.

At Christmas he goes to see an all-white movie with friends, and realizes that he needs to bring Dolemite to the big screen. He finds a writer (Keegan-Michael Key), a director (Wesley Snipes), and a student cameraman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and begins making a movie by the seat of his pants, all craziness and gusto. The finished product changes things forever.

Directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood), Dolemite Is My Name checks off the events of Rudy Ray Moore's life like a list, but it's Murphy's boundless energy and charisma that drive the movie. Normally in biopics such as this, the leading character overshadows all of the supporting characters, but here Murphy is such a whirlwind that it makes perfect sense he would have an army of followers caught up in his creative wake.

Nonetheless, most of the cast here gets in good, funny moments, especially Snipes as Dolemite director D'Urville Martin, the only one with any Hollywood experience, and perpetually dismayed at what he's seeing. The movie is especially wise at how it depicts the whiteness of the entertainment industry — from a viewing of Billy Wilder's The Front Page on the big screen to a Western showing on a TV set — and how rare movies like Dolemite actually were.

And it's quite moving to hear Lady Reed (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) thank Moore for finally allowing her to see someone that looks like her up on the big screen. Like Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist, Dolemite Is My Name is not only a grand celebration of perseverance over skill, but also of the power of finally being seen and heard.

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