Dolemite Is My Name: Eddie Murphy in Top Form in Brewer’s Musical Biopic

After a series of disappointing films, Craig Brewer is back on tera ferma with Dolemite Is My Name, a musical biopic written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.

The film stars Eddie Murphy as filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, best known for portraying the character of Dolemite in his stand-up routine and a series of blaxploitation films, starting with Dolemite in 1975.

World premiering at the 2019 Toronto Film Fest, it was released by Netflix in limited release on October 4, before digital streaming on October 25.

This is also Murphy’s comeback performance, his first film in three years–and first R-rated film in two decades.

The film is dedicated to Murphy’s older brother, who died in 2017.

The biopic has been in the works for over a decade, with some involvement from Rudy Ray Moore, who died in 2008.

In 1970s Los Angeles, Moore (Murphy) is a struggling artist working in a record store, trying to get his music on the air. At night, he moonlights as an MC for his friend Ben Taylor (Craig Robinson) and Taylor’s musical group at a club.

At the record store, one day a homeless man wanders in, and begins making rhyming proclamations, one of which bears the name “Dolemite.” Inspired by him, Moore creates a stage persona telling these stories. Dressing in pimp attire and brandishing a cane, Moore launches into a crudely humorous and foul-mouthed routine titled “The Signifying Monkey.”

The collaboration between Murphy, Brewer, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski is a match made in heaven.  Brewer first burst upon the scene with his splashy 2005 Sundance Film Fest debut, Hustle and Flow.  Immersed in pop culture, Alexander and Karaszewski had already paid tribute to another entrepreneurial artist in Ed Wood.

Murphy is perfectly cast as the bold and brash hustler, who seems to know–and to exploit–both his strengths and weaknesses.  Despite warnings of pressures of the market place, he continues to use and relish bowdy lingo (your mother is a whore, your girl’s hot p—y, blow jobs, cocksucker)

In what is his strongest role in decades, Murphy, once the major comedian- actor of his generation, renders a carefully-crafted, ego-free performance, excelling in conveying a performer who never rose above or beyond mediocrity.

Visually, the film recalls the wave of blaxploitation films of the 1970s.