I honestly had zero expectations when I hit “play” on Netflix a few nights ago. I knew going in that the cast was full of familiar talented faces, but I had never heard a single thing in my life about this character named Dolemite nor the man who brought him to life.
Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, a regular guy in the 1970’s with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Although he’s been in the game for awhile, his only claim to fame is a few unpopular R&B tracks along with his weekly gig as a host in a nightclub. During the day he works at a record store and laments to his friends about how life hasn’t gone the way he planned. That all changes when he creates a character called Dolemite and starts performing a live comedy routine around town. The character is a hit and suddenly Rudy is in high demand. Things are going so great that he conceives a movie starring the character. He enlists the help of his closest friends, along with some industry vets, and sets out to bring Dolemite to the big screen.
This movie is certainly a comedy, but it packs a lot of heart and features stellar performances from several known comedians as well as a few not-so-known actors who are on the cusp of becoming household names.
Murphy kills it as Rudy. He infuses life into this entire movie. A lot of the same charisma and intensity that initially made him a star in the 80’s, is back in full force as the rhyming, over-the-top, pimp-like Dolemite. Even if you don’t care for raunchy humor, you have to acknowledge that this is a man who knows how to properly commit to a character. It’s what has made him one of the greats and also what makes this movie a surprising hit.
Sure Dolemite is funny, but it’s Rudy himself who is most memorable to me. He has a lot of heart. He doesn’t just care about becoming a superstar; he also cares about the people who surround him. It’s a rarity to see in such a cut-throat business, but Rudy brings out the best in everyone around him. It’s his friends Jimmy (Mike Epps), Ben (Craig Robinson), and Toney (Titus Burgess) who he makes sure to include every step of the way. They are a lovable bunch, each talented in some area, and the actual actors themselves are operating from a really honest place. So much so that it sometimes didn’t even feel scripted. They worked with one another so easily and there was just a natural chemistry present. I enjoyed seeing each of them embody such colorful characters.
Other familiar talent are Keegan-Michael Key, who portrays the writer who works with Rudy to create the Dolemite script, and Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin, an actor who Rudy convinces to direct the movie. They are both great additions and I love seeing that so many people were just as entertained by them as I was!
Rudy also befriends new people who he incorporates into Dolemite’s antics. The first being Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a no-nonsense woman who gets Rudy’s attention one night after decking her philandering husband in a nightclub. Over time she and Rudy become great friends and he creates a character for her known as “Queen Bee”. I didn’t know anything about Randolph prior to this, but she does some good work in this movie and hopefully starts to turn up in more projects.
My favorite thing about Dolemite is My Name is that it tells the story of a strong-willed person who is willing to work hard to make his dreams a reality. When he gets told “no”, he digs his heels in deeper and forges ahead anyway.
Rudy Ray Moore: [Speaking with the Bihari Brothers about them helping finance the production of “Dolemite” by giving up future royalties to his records] I’m going to bet on myself. Ain’t nobody going to put me on the screen except for me, and everybody I talk to say they want to see a “Dolemite” movie.
Julius Bihari: Well, we understand. You’re not supposed to make a movie for the five square blocks of people you know.
Rudy Ray Moore: [takes pause] Well… that’s fine with me. ‘Cause every city in America got those same five blocks. And those folks is going to love it!
For so long, no one was pushing ownership in Hollywood. Especially NOT Black ownership. In that way, Moore was wayyyy ahead of his time. He figured out that making something happen without the support of a major studio was possible. He is one of the very first of his generation to arrive at that mode of thinking. While Rudy may not have achieved mainstream success or acceptance from white audiences, he found his niche and operated in it to a certain level of success. Dolemite is a funny movie, but it also packs a lot of real messages about confidence, representation, and inclusion.
The general consensus seems to be that the depiction in this film is pretty spot-on to the original blaxploitation project that dropped back in 1974. I haven’t seen it, nor any of the subsequent movies that followed, but I heard that the original is currently available on YouTube.
If you’re not a fan of raunchy humor, nudity, or other vulgarities, it’s probably best to steer clear of this one. It probably goes without saying, but Dolemite rightfully earned its “R” rating.
Dolemite is My Name is currently streaming on Netflix!
Do you remember the first movie you ever saw that was rated R? Was it a comedy, action, or horror movie? Tell me all about it in the comments down below!