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February 28th, 2020

dolemite is my name spotlight reviewRudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) prepares to entertain a crowd as Dolemite in this scene from Netflix’s “Dolemite Is My Name” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


This past weekend for was a rather quiet one compared to the past couple weekends and in that spirit, I spent my weekend watching some stuff on Netflix and otherwise just hanging out. In my Netflix viewing adventures I came across the movie “Dolemite Is My Name,” a biopic starring Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore, best known for portraying the character of Dolemite in both his stand-up routine and a series of feature films, starting with “Dolemite” in 1975. The movie starts with Moore finding his rhythm in stand-up and then most of the movie focuses on the filmmaking process for “Dolemite.”

When I saw the trailer on Netflix when the movie came out in October, I must admit I thought it looked rather silly and crude and didn’t think too much of it. During the past couple months, however, I’ve heard a bit of the buzz surrounding the movie (including multiple Golden Globe nominations) and this weekend I finally clicked on it to see if it was worth watching. And ultimately, like with many of my viewing adventures the past several months, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

The first thing that caught my attention about this movie was the costuming. The movie takes place in the mid-1970s, which saw much in the way of crazy fashion (I have evidence of this from some of my parents’ childhood photos) and this movie definitely captured the crazy fashions of that time period. Much like when I saw “Rocketman” last year, I was amused by the costume choices in the movie and wondered how hard the costume crew had to work to find clothing that would fit into that era’s style. My hat is off to those people and they did a great job. 

Another thing that stood out to me about the movie was how retro the movie went with everything, particularly with the scenes where they’re filming the first “Dolemite” movie. Young as I am, I sometimes forget filmmakers had to use actual film during those times and there was more than one time when I asked myself “What are they TALKING about?” when the more technical aspects being discussed. In a way, the movie also serves as somewhat of an information piece about how movies were made back in that era and it’s interesting to see how much time and effort it took to make a movie and get it distributed. 

Something else I have to give praise to in the movie is the acting. Eddie Murphy is absolutely fantastic as Rudy Ray Moore and he does a great job of capturing not only Moore’s crudeness and brashness, but he also manages to give Moore a human side as well in the sense that he was much like anyone else, working and clawing his way in order to just be noticed and wanting to leave behind a worthwhile legacy for people (which, according to the movie’s epilogue, he did). Overall, he did a great job and proved he’s still got some decent acting chops when given the right material to work with. Honestly, if he had ultimately beat out Taron Egerton for the Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Golden Globe, I wouldn’t have been upset. Another standout for me was Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, a friend Moore meets after a comedy set one evening. Randolph is super talented in the role and does an overall great job being one of the few steady presences in Moore’s life during the moviemaking process. She and Eddie Murphy have great chemistry on screen and make you believe in the level of friendship portrayed. 

Something else I liked about the movie was how steady the tone was. It’s very straightforward in its storytelling and the direction and everything else are very solidly done, making for a very solid and enjoyable watch. Along those lines, however, I feel there are a few areas where the movie could have done a slightly deeper dive into its subject – there are multiple times when Moore mentions how abusive and overbearing his father was as a child, and I wish we would have had a few scenes showing that in order to show how that affected him during his life. I also wish the movie had gone more in depth into all the work Moore had to do in order to get “Dolemite” distributed, I felt like that was somewhat skimmed over. Had there been a deeper dive into a few other areas, that would have added more of an ‘oomph’ to the movie overall.

Overall, I enjoyed watching “Dolemite Is My Name” on Netflix this past weekend and would give it a “B” grade. Eddie Murphy and the rest of the cast are great in their respective roles, the costumes are flamboyant and colorful and the tone is steady and does a great job of capturing its subject. If you’re a fan of any of Eddie Murphy’s past work, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy this movie, which is rated R for for some sexuality, full nudity and brief language

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