Netflix’s ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ returns Eddie Murphy to greatness

Chasing your dreams can be a costly and stressful journey.

Everything in your being is telling you to stop and retreat back to a machine-like existence, but you push on against the odds. For some reason, a light inside your head simply won’t turn off. For Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy), the light simply would never turn off.

Stuck in a career rut while being a creative workhorse during the mid-1970’s, Moore was at a wit’s end. In between handing out mail at a radio station, he would slip into the D.J.’s (Snoop Dog) office to see if he’d play one of his records. Moore had about five different sounds and none of them were appealing. Until he found Dolemite.

In Craig Brewer’s “Dolemite Is My Name,” we watch a classic rags to riches story, and a true one at that. There really was a Rudy Ray Moore, and Murphy brings to vivid life here in a role that should garner some awards attention this winter.

It’s the kind of role a fan would have drawn up for the longtime yet recently sequestered comedy star. Thankfully, Eddie’s late brother, Charlie, got him hooked on Moore’s story and got the juices flowing. In classic Dolemite fashion, this Netflix movie took ten years to get to the screen, which may be oddly fitting.

Once Moore latched onto the new personality, he started doing small venue comedy shows. It was here that he met most of his longtime crew and friends, including Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a struggling mother that he helps become a performer. You see, that’s the reason Dolemite is so easy to love and cheer for. He wasn’t just a stray talent who cared only about his own future. He wanted the best for all his fellow hustlers, and constantly gave out opportunity.

While Murphy is great, the rest of the cast shines too, including the lost and now found Wesley Snipes. The former action star found career poison via tax fraud and prison time, but he’s slowly made a path back to the glory days. Brewer’s movie is something else. You get to see Snipes in a way you rarely have witnessed: vulnerable, hilarious, and not throwing kicks and punches. Here, Snipes plays the established if not household name-carrying D’Urville, who Moore hires to direct a Dolemite movie.

A movie within a move type experiences follows, with fellow Moore allies chipping in Craig T. Robinson’s Ben, Mike Epps’ Jimmy, and Titus Burgess’ Toney. They are all so good here, fitting into their roles like comfy pegs in a well-oiled machine.

Several other memorable names pop up in this movie, but I’ll let you find those yourself. They are just a few of the many surprises in this flashy yet heartfelt movie, which runs on heavy laughs and true tale soul. You will cry a little with laughter when Moore goes to certain lengths on the set of his movie, and also laugh out loud when Snipes’ egotistical director finds Moore’s lack of experience problematic. “What planet does this cat think he’s on?!!!” You’ll wonder the same thing.

That’s all part of the charm, which feeds this underdog story. Go in with an open mind, which I carried because I had little clue who Moore and Dolemite were.

“Dolemite Is My Name” doesn’t just represent a comeback for Murphy, but a raucous return for Snipes as well.

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