Eddie Murphy is back in the game.
“Dolemite is My Name” is the first movie since “Tower Heist” to allow Eddie Murphy to reconnect with his glory 1980s days when “SNL,” Beverly Hills Cop” and “48 Hours,” among others, made him a star. We all know that in a recent trend, he has made a number of bombs like “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “I Spy,” “Imagine That,” and “A Thousand Words,” etc. Despite his brilliant vocal performances in “Shrek” and “Mulan,” he really needed to get back in the game.
But with “Dolemite is My Name,” he finally does. Guided by Craig Brewer (“Hustle and Flow”), we meet Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore (1927-2008), a would-be musician and comedian, who discovers his talents, courtesy of a bum named Rico.
He creates the Dolemite character based on the bum’s stories, and all of them are so fearless, explicit, and damn right funny that he decides to produce a comedy album. On stage, he wears an Afro wig and a pimp suit, and allows his buddies (Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s” Titus Burgess) and a single mom (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to join in on the action.
The records sell so well that Rudy decides to up the ante by producing the feature film of the character, at the risk of losing his fortune. He gains help from playwright Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key) to write the script, and actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) to not only co-star, but also direct.
“Dolemite is My Name” has a groovy style, sincerely honest moments, and laughable charms. It actually gives Murphy a retro character, and not a puppet. He nails the role of Rudy Ray Moore by delving into the real-life character, and using his magic to keep us rolling in the aisles. He’s back in the game, baby.
It’s not just Murphy we have to single out. Brewer brings it all together in an ambitious narrative with aid from writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the two behind “Ed Wood” and “Big Eyes.” The supporting work from Randolph, Key, and Snipes keeps the leading man at bay with their own perspectives. And the 70s hits keeps things bouncing along, as well as cameos from Snoop Dogg as a DJ, Chris Rock as a radio personality, and Bob Odenkirk as a studio president.
Even if we don’t get all the characters’ full developments, like the single mother, we still feel the love and energy presented in “Dolemite is My Name.” And later in the movie, Rudy contemplates about how critics have no sense of fun, because of “Dolemite’s” negative reviews. That was poetic, but not all of us are cold. I had a ball with this one.
You want classic Eddie Murphy, this comedy biopic provides.
Now playing in select theaters
Available on Netflix October 18