Published Oct 09, 2019Charting the unconventional real-life rise to stardom of one idealistic dreamer who, despite being an acquired taste, refused the world telling him no, Craig Brewer's Dolemite Is My Name digs deep into its screenwriters' familiar playbook to project the irreverent, larger than life Rudy Ray Moore onto the screen.
Nearly 25 years to the day since they applied their tributary sentimentality to Hollywood outcast Edward D. Wood Jr., the biopic producing duo of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski tap into that same reverence for the boisterous comedian-cum-blaxploitation icon to such a degree it nearly borders on self-cribbing. Feeling less like a script and more like an empirical formula narrowed down to its most important components to generate audience pathos and have you championing its historical figure to a fault, Dolemite Is My Name is biopic perfected into a teachable science.
Much like their previous efforts spotlighting controversial, misunderstood figures like Larry Flynt and Andy Kaufman, what upholds the film through its more formulaic territory is the foundational performance of its star. Eddie Murphy embodying the born entertainer in Moore is a revelation in his capabilities to command a scene with his unignorable presence.
Following Moore from his washed-out state in life to his personal reinvention as the mythic Dolemite character, Murphy injects an intoxicating humanity into the central figure through all his riotous posturing as the "baddest motherfucker who ever lived." The scenes recreating Moore's standup and the tumultuous production of his self-financed starring vehicle are stirring and incontestably gratifying, but the weight Murphy gives the performance of a man who willingly threw himself into show business, fully aware of his probability to failure, cannot be commended enough.
Orbited by an indelible supporting cast with the likes of Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes bringing hilarious revelry to the story, Dolemite Is My Name is first and foremost an unapologetic celebration of Rudy Ray Moore, and its hard for the enthusiasm it trades in to not be infectious.
Even with Alexander and Karaszewski "playing the hits" with familiar biographical story beats in their repertoire and Brewer's accelerated pacing leaving much of Moore's history of struggle and ascension to be rendered with numerous glorified montages set to era-appropriate needle drops, the film can barely contain its unbridled fervor for Moore and this reverence plays extremely well.
Much like the Dolemite act, the film doesn't just ask you to reconsider Moore. It stamps its cane on the ground and commands your attention in a flagrant, outrageous fashion that makes it hard not to cheer along with the crowd.