Starring: Eddie Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key
Director: Craig Brewer
Running Time: 118 mins
Dolemite Is My Name is an American film about the story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian-turned-filmmaker who went out on a limb to make a hit movie starring his kung fu-fighting alter ego, proving all his naysayers wrong in the process and become an icon of the Blaxploitation era of cinema.
Charismatic, funny and thoroughly interesting, Dolemite Is My Name is a great watch, and an even better insight into the beginnings of a legend of film and music, as well as the enthralling truth behind the characteristically bizarre world of Blaxploitation cinema. It’s a film that might not quite have the character intrigue or offbeat charm you may hope for, but with a collection of hugely enjoyable performances on top, it’s tough not to have a good time with Dolemite Is My Name.
Let’s start, though, with the film’s true story, which is easily the most interesting part of all. Unless you’re a big fan of the era, Blaxploitation does seem really rather unorthodox, with its low-budget movies featuring big action, crazed plots and innovative dialogue.
However, what Dolemite Is My Name does is offers up a fascinating insight into one of the defining films of the era, and the truth behind the genre as a whole. Following the story of a struggling comedian who becomes a surprise hit in black communities across the country, the film goes on to look at his efforts to make a feature film starring his most popular character – the charismatic, quiptastic, kung fu-fighting Dolemite.
But as he visits film production and distribution companies across the country, he receives rejection after rejection, with executives refuting the potential success of his film given its relatively crude style and lack of appeal to broader audiences.
It might sound like a reasonable rejection from companies looking to make a profit, but Eddie Murphy’s Rudy Ray Moore hits back and goes out on his own to make the story that he knows thousands around the country would love to see on the big screen.
In that, the film features a surprisingly uplifting and inspiring tale of succeeding against all the odds, but equally a historically enthralling look at how representation in cinema can be so difficult to come by, with studios concerned only about what already works for them, and new upstart filmmakers unable to bring their more modern and widely representative movies to the viewers who want to see them.
So, as a biography of the story of Dolemite and the wider reality of how Blaxploitation cinema came to be, this is a genuinely fascinating film, although it doesn’t quite manage to replicate that depth when it comes to the characters and drama.
Despite brilliantly charismatic and enjoyable performances across the board – especially from Eddie Murphy with what is surely his most genuine and engaging performance in years – Dolemite Is My Name never really manages to dig deeper into the lives and thoughts of its main characters, instead sticking with a rather more generic tale of working to prove others wrong even after countless rejections.
That’s an enjoyable and uplifting story by itself, but I felt that the film could really have done with a good deal more character depth – particularly looking at the characteristics and struggles of Rudy Ray Moore himself.
Dolemite Is My Name is an engaging, entertaining and uplifting film through and through, and with great humour and charisma on top, it’s difficult not to like, but I just felt that it was lacking a little bit of real, emotional depth which could have brought so much more intrigue to the story, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4 overall.