It can be easy to forget how good Eddie Murphy can be in the right role. After years of Norbits and Holy Mans, Murphy has been given the right role as Rudy Ray Moore. It is a juicy role that allows him to curse with style, be funny and act his ass off. Funny enough, the film also does the same for Wesley Snipes but more on that later.
Dolemite Is My Name is a breezy but sincere account of the underground comedian turned action movie star Rudy Ray Moore. Moore has been an influential figure in hip hop for decades but few are likely to be familiar with him. When his comedy act wasn't going as well as he hoped, he got the idea to create a rhyming pimp known as Dolemite. Soon he began selling comedy albums and finding minor success. He essentially steals the character from a local drunk and weaves it into a full-blown action superstar.
Much of the film's running time chronicles the making of Dolemite, a blaxploitation classic that was filmed on a microbudget. The film in the film and Dolemite is My Name itself are raunchy affairs but also very funny. Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karasweski wrote Ed Wood and know how to capture the spirit of independent filmmakers. They focus on the indelible spirit of Moore rather than his personal life. This makes the film breezy fun but never anything too terribly deep.
Director Craig Brewer understands the parallels between Moore and Murphy and brings out the confidence that Murphy has been missing for a long time. Brewer stacks the supporting cast with Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, and Craig Robinson. As mentioned above, Wesley Snipes is used to great effect in the film. He steals every scene he is in and reminds us that he can be funny and interesting. It is as much a return to form for him as it is for Murphy.
While I would have dug a scene or two that delved a bit more into Moore's inner doubts and his struggle to keep his swagger, the film is great fun. Not since Bowfinger has Murphy made me laugh as hard as I did here. The film's quick pace, great cast, and confident direction make it something to catch either on the big screen or the small. The film is getting a theatrical release but will also be released on Netflix.