DOLEMITE IS MY NAME – movie review

Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Craig Brewer
Screenwriter: Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Noop Dogg
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 10/3/19
Opens: October 4, 2019

Dolemite Is My Name Movie Poster

Eddie Murphy is back and back big! “Dolemite is My Name” is a vastly entertaining, noisy, chaotic and wonderful comedy which takes off from the principal character’s thesis that “Black people like explosions, car crashes and titties.” Sounds like something that transcends race, but in many ways, Craig Brewer’s biopic finds that blacks and whites may have different senses of humor. Never mind: spun by this mostly African-American cast, the jokes and situations can be universally understood and embraced.

Under the direction of Craig Brewer, the perfect guy for the task having made films like “Hustle & Flow” (Memphis pimp in midlife crisis tries to become a hip-hop emcee), Murphy anchors the comedy as a man down on luck. Like Terrence Howard’s character Dj in “Hustle and Flow,” Rudy Ray Moore is not satisfied being a mere record store clerk, eager to break out with his own music, frustrated that nobody would touch his singles. Moore is compelled to work a shift in a nightclub where he bombs. Unable to catch the attention he needs as either a singer or a stand-up comic, he runs into a homeless man who is a repository of stories, which Moore appropriates for his own nightclub act and voilá: he has his crowd screaming. The more obscene the better. When he can’t sell the disc to a local JD as it’s too dirty to put on the air, he successfully markets it from his car trunk. He takes on the name Dolemite, and he’s on his way up.

Moore, dressed in a huge array of costumes, the pimp-ier the better, excites his all African-American crowd. He hits on one Lady Reed (D’Vine Joy Randolph), convincing her to team up with him. He watches the movie “Front Page” in a theater with an appreciative white audience, looking around and wondering why he’s the only person who doesn’t get it. That gives him an idea. Why not open up a movie starring him, all-black cast, giving his target audience what they want most: white guys as baddies, taken down with karate chops and automatic gunfire, a sex scene (which, though meant to be romantic turns out hilarious), and all-around mayhem. Plans get realized when he rents a run-down hotel, hires white guys from the local film school who know how to put a movie together, and lands a celeb, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) to co-star with Moore and to direct.

Eddie Murphy is a spellbinder, set to rivet his real movie audience as he does the folks in the cast, a Horario Alger story, if you will, about picking yourself up from the ground, dusting yourself off, and making it big. With a large and delightfully vulgar ensemble, especially Wesley Snipes and Da’Vine Joy Randolph and lots of loud songs to keep our blood flowing, “Dolemite is My Name” is not only a blast but informs us about the rules of the marketing game and how they can be embraced and overturned as well.

117 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+