More noise than signal

Dolemite Is My Name

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore in this biopic of the comedian, starting from his days as a struggling MC and record shop worker whose career takes off once he inhabits the character of Dolemite, a obscene rhyme spewing, no-guff-taking pimp based on stories the local homeless folks told to amuse each other.

Betting on himself when no-one else is going to, he puts out an x-rated album of his own material, selling it from the back of his car, making enough of a success for a record company to put it out more widely, and repeating that success with subsequent albums.

However, that’s not enough for Moore to be content with, sensing a huge untapped market for comedy films aimed at African Americans and again bets everything he has, and more, on producing a Dolemite film, despite having no experience of film production, or contacts in the industry, apart from a chance meeting with Wesley Snipes’ D’Urville Martin, already a regular in the Blaxploitation scene who directs.

Again, there’s no takers amongst the studio execs, meaning he’s forced to put this out cinema by cinema, touring the cities with it, until it garners enough success for the studio system to reconsider the mathematics of the situation. Dolemite would, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, made $12 million from its $100K budget, and largely ensure Moore could continue doing what he loves, for the people who loved it.

Blaxploitation in general is a subject on our to-do list, but because we have not so far done it, I’ve only a passing familiarity with the likes of Shaft, and by this point I’ve probably seen more parodies or homages of Blaxploitation films than actual Blaxploitation films. Which is to say I knew little to nothing of Moore’s career or act, but having watched Dolemite Is My Name, I’ve very much inspired to.

Murphy is excellent, giving the sort of performance you’d expect from the Murphy of thirty years ago, as opposed to his more, let’s politely say patchy recent output. An absolutely captivating turn, and if Moore is half as magnetic, good time are ahead.

He’s backed up by a great supporting cast of Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess and of course Snipes, and has produced a very funny film that shows a highly entertaining underdog story. It’s not going to redefine movie making or anything, but it’s a really fun film and very easy to recommend.