Dolemite Is My Name is absolutely rambunctious. There has not been a movie in such a long time that has me physically jamming, rooting, clapping and slapping; The feeling is almost spiritual and I can’t lie. It is a whole load of fun and one of the few movies that I can’t wait to immediately re-watch the second it ended. It is joyous; It is rapturous. However, make no mistake. This re-telling of Rudy Ray Moore’s ascent in the world of comedy and entertainment, is beset with serious undertones of race, gender and class. More specifically, the socio-racial issues serve as a constant monolithic barrier to early innovators like Rudy Ray Moore (played by Eddie Murphy). His struggle to succeed in the predominantly White entertainment industry is universally felt even till this day and some of the more hard-hitting scenes foreshadow the lasting discrimination that African-Americans deal with on a daily basis.
This is most powerfully seen in a scene where a Black producer rejects Rudy’s film for another film called ‘Cornbread, Earl and Me’. He explains that in order to cater to a white audience, an uplifting film about a ‘kid from the ghetto’ who rises up (presumably with the help of White people) and becomes the first from his community to make it to college. This is a subtle and short scene. But Rudy’s perplexed reaction coupled with the too well-dressed producer provides an ironic and visual juxtaposition that underscores the nefarious problems of indirect racism. The issue concerns White America’s inherent condescension of Blacks and the persistent notion that a Black man’s success is acceptable and non-threatening only if succeeds by the standards set by White America. In this case, entertainment will only be enjoyed and accepted if it portrays White America as benevolent saviors whose institutions represent a step up from the ‘ghetto’. The message to Rudy is clear: His abrasive style of ‘fighting the system’ and threatening the status quo with depictions of strong Black men will be rejected.
Capturing the tribulations and institutional barriers in both serious and light-hearted ways, Dolemite Is My Name finds a balance in conveying gravitas and paying homage in the infectiously jovial and generous spirit of Rudy Ray Moore. Eddie Murphy is excellent in portraying the man himself in the face of backlash and challenge, and fleshes out some of the most empowering and uplifting sequences with heart and soul. For all the hilarious and comedic moments, more serious and heartfelt moments elevate Dolemite Is My Name to another level. Rudy and company will be proud that this ode to his life balances both the humour and the gravitas, and that it did not mince on the prescient realities that run deep.
Ultimately, this tribute to the pioneer entertainer celebrates him the way that Rudy and many who loved him knew him to be; An embodiment of a ‘ghetto expressionist’ (in his own words) who worked tirelessly to bring laughter and stamp his mark on this world. Dolemite Is My Name is very much, thematically and stylistically, steeped in the iconic and boisterous fervour of Rudy’s comedic persona. With the vivid luxuriance of Ruth Carter’s costumes and smashing performances from Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Tituss Burgess and Keegan Michael Key, this film is such a hilarious get-off-your-seat and jam-to-the-beat thrill ride. More importantly, it is an affectionate tribute to this larger than life figure that many of us are just beginning to hear about. I am thankful that a tribute has been made for the legend himself who proclaims, ‘Dolemite is my name, and f*cking up motherf*ckers is my game!’.
Rating: 10/10. This is out on Netflix and I highly recommend all to check this out. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!