There’s a moment early on in “Dolemite Is My Name,” where Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) explains how he ran away from his backwards unapologetic father to get to Hollywood. Moore explains that his father would always tell him that he’d never be as good as him and that he’d never amount to anything and should just settle on falling in line. This is a man who has been told to settle his entire life, to fall in line and accept that he isn’t destined for greatness, if not by his father than by those trying to put him down. And yet, being surrounded by all these great artists that Moore looks up to, it is impossible for him to understand why he can’t have that same greatness. Even if he’s been told “no” his entire life, he refuses to let one word get in his way.
This is the emotional core of “Dolemite Is My Name,” and a brilliant one at that. Whether trying (and failing) to invent himself as a singer, a shake dancer, or a comedian, Moore takes each step in stride and with a positive spin on each career attempt. He is so intoxicated by the hope of Hollywood that he refuses to let a little thing like failure get in his way. And as Moore’s career finally starts to take off with his own unique persona of Dolemite, something he can claim as his own, people start to finally notice him to the point that he goes on tour and even plans to make a movie, even if he has to do everything himself.
Some might describe “Dolemite Is My Name” as a black “Ed Wood,” and that would be an apt description. Both films have a love for cinema and its worldwide appeal, and feature an optimistic protagonist that wants nothing more than share his love with others. But what separates “Dolemite Is My Name” from “Ed Wood” is that search for an identity near the beginning of the film, something that turns Rudy Ray Moore into Dolemite that gives this film an even greater punch. Moore doesn’t just believe in the magic of cinema, but in the magic of creation. In his eyes, that is a gift that only few people ever get, and its a gift that must be shared.
“Dolemite Is My Name” is the most uplifting movie of the year, giving everyone who has ever been silenced a voice. Eddie Murphy is brilliant and honest in every scene, nailing every comedic moment as well as the dramatic with just enough ego to be charming. Despite being as much of a blaxploitation film as the original “Dolemite,” this is one that transcends the cultural barriers with its comedy, honesty and hunt for identity in a difficult world.
Final Grade: A+