Dolemite Is My Name (review)

[This review was contributed by (AF).]

Eddie Murphy stars in the origin story for the 1975 blaxploitation (or blacksploitation) movie called Dolemite. After several failed attempts to break into the entertainment industry, record store manager Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) tries comedy but faces more rejection from his boss and friends.

Upon hearing old slave folk tales from a local homeless man, Rudy turns those tales into a comedy act with a personality called Dolemite. Taking after a stylish pimp, Moore develops the walk, fashion, and hairpiece that creates this graphically vulgar but charismatic character.

The audience loves it, which propels his popularity and albums onto the billboard charts. As success finally takes shape for Moore, his drive for ultimate recognition takes his ambition to the big screen.

Highlights

The attention to detail in the film would make any baby-boomer nostalgic. The accuracy of the storefronts, the cars, the music, and hairstyles will transport you into the best of the ’70s. The environment enhanced the presence of Dolemite’s persona like he walked through a room under a spotlight.

Dolemite is a guilty pleasure. He has outrageous lies about his sexual escapades and reprimands any insulting naysayers with pimp slaps. Unscathed and never defeated Dolemite symbolizes a man that wins in life and for Rudy, he symbolizes confidence, success, and proof that he made it.

Rudy is a classic origin story of perseverance. You witness his talent in niche marketing, persuasion, and creative solutions. At one point, Rudy is reciting lines from a script that sound like a powerful declaration over his impoverished childhood. As a viewer, you will appreciate the humble tenacity Rudy has for accomplishing his goal and being financially responsible for his crew.

Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key) added wonderful texture to the film. They underline the importance of the Dolemite movie to the cast and crew on a personal level.

Eddie Murphy chose an excellent project to make his comeback after a three-year-long hiatus. Murphy exercised his comedic and dramatic side and paid homage to the original filmmakers’ work while doing it.

With that said, be ready for a profound amount of cursing, as it will take some adjusting to. The flavor of the comedy was difficult to understand as the previous generation may laugh more than millennial’s. Like today’s HipHop or Rap culture, the derogatory language referring to women is for entertainment purposes which reinforces the mantra that sex sells. However, a nod to the film for an action sequence highlighting an all-female kung-fu squad.

Rudy also encountered the problem of commercial distribution in a family-friendly world for black filmmakers. Blaxploitation films are more than just hyper-sexualized fictional characters. They are more about black heroism in the community. They are proud, attractive, intolerant when it comes to injustice, and just downright cool.

Recommendation

Films like Shaft, Super Fly and Coffy aired no earlier than midnight and were fortunately still successful. The difficulty is in the sheer willpower of the people behind the scenes to have their movie shown in the 1970s.

Dolemite was just one of many stories that battled the industry and won. I can only imagine how many ended up on a shelf dying in a 35mm film canister. I would have an open mind, research black cinema history and take your time watching this film.

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