In his heyday during the 1980s and 90s, Eddie Murphy was one of the world’s most versatile entertainers. Through his uncurbed standup comedy, brilliant characters on “Saturday Night Live” and iconic movies such as “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Coming to America,” Murphy’s comedic brand reached millions of people around the world.
In this decade, however, the world hasn’t seen much of Murphy. According to the man himself, he hasn’t done standup since he was in his late 20s — around 30 years ago. Other than voicing Donkey in various installments of the “Shrek” series, he only has four acting credits to his name since 2010 and none since 2016.
Thankfully for his fans, the long wait for Murphy’s return to the spotlight seems to be over. He is currently working on new installments for “Coming to America” and “Beverly Hills Cop” and has expressed interest in doing standup again. And on Oct. 25, he re-emerged into acting with the release of the biopic “Dolemite Is My Name” on Netflix.
Murphy produces and stars in “Dolemite Is My Name” as real-life entertainer Rudy Ray Moore, who is famous for his hilarious and crude character Dolemite. A struggling comedian and singer working at a record store at the beginning of the film, Moore finds success after dreaming up his raunchy pimp alter ego in the 1970s. Confronted by skeptics at every turn, Moore perseveres to release numerous comedy albums and films as the audacious caricature.
From the very start, “Dolemite Is My Name” is a wildly entertaining, retro adventure. With a funky soundtrack and vibrant costumes, the film fully immerses the audience into the culture of the 70s. Director Craig Brewer, who had previously directed episodes of “Empire” and 2011’s “Footloose” remake, gives the film a pulsing rhythm, guiding the viewer along the roller coaster ride that was Moore’s life.
Moore’s tale is so outlandish in nature, it would be easy to think many plot points are embellished in the film. So many elements of Moore’s life are straight out of a tall tale, from Moore being inspired to create Dolemite by the stories of a local wino to hiring University of Califonia, Los Angeles film students to make his first movie to filming an absolutely insane sex scene. However, Brewer mostly sticks to the facts, only slightly altering the timeline of Moore’s life to more fully encapsulate his legacy.
Although Moore’s story is certainly entertaining, Murphy is the true lightning rod of this film. Murphy perfectly inhabits this larger-than-life figure, expertly balancing Moore’s bold comedic stylings with his deeply vulnerable psyche.
Throughout the film, Moore is mostly driven by the need to prove himself to the countless people who had disregarded his talents. As his fame increases, so does his confidence — but he still has deeply rooted doubts about his potential. Murphy just as easily portrays Moore’s real insecurities about his character’s looks and talents as he does his frenetic, off-the-wall humor. Don’t be shocked if you hear about Murphy’s performance again around awards season — he’s extremely dynamic in the role.
Murphy is also surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Moore was known to lean heavily on his friends and fellow comedians, casting many of them in his films. Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and more excellent actors make up Moore’s ragtag posse of entertainers, with a few surprise cameos that are too fun to spoil. Wesley Snipes particularly shines in his role as D’Urville Martin, the eccentric director Moore hires to give his film some star power.
Carried by strong performances and snappy dialogue, “Dolemite Is My Name” is a lively reintroduction to both its subject and the man who portrays him. In the process of telling the story of a largely forgotten entertainer to a new generation, Murphy also reminds the world of his own thriving, still-evolving legacy.