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Eddie Murphy roars back into the cultural conversation, the Awards Season, and my heart, with his flamboyant, exuberant and spectacularly entertaining performance in director Craig Brewer’s Dolemite Is My Name. He plays Rudy Ray Moore, a real-life performance desperado who broke through to cult success in the 1970s with a comedy set and subsequent record based on stories he bought from a drunk old-timer who lived on the streets. Then, with his rag-tag ensemble of friends and colleagues, he made a movie, Dolemite, under the most indie of independent circumstances. Along the way he may just have invented rap.
This joyous film has the kind of generosity of spirit that you just gotta smile, and frequently laugh out loud. Murphy powers the whole thing along but his ensemble – Keegan-Michael Key, Titus Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Epps and particularly Craig Robinson – fill out Rudy Ray’s motley creative family with warmth and huge heart. The filmmaking section, which is a good half of the film, evokes Ed Wood, which was also written by Dolemite scribes Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.
I loved this movie. Rudy Ray went on to make seven more Dolemite pictures; I could easily take a Netflix series with an episode spent on the production of every one. It may not be, cinematically, particularly ground-breaking or artful, but as pure entertainment, it’s among the films of the year; it’s certainly one of the funniest.