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Film Review: “Dolemite” explores cultural struggles and divides

Eddie Murphy makes his triumphant return to the big screen in “Dolemite Is My Name.” However, this is not the same Eddie Murphy that many of us have grown up with and have grown accustomed to over the years in films like “Daddy Day Care” or “The Nutty Professor.” Murphy returns to his more vulgar and raunchy stand-up roots in “Dolemite Is My Name,” which is the first R-rated film he has appeared in since 1999. 


“Dolemite Is My Name” is a biographical film about comedian and filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, starring Murphy as Moore. Although Moore and his brand of comedy are criminally left out of discussions of influential black artists in the 1970s, the lyrical delivery of his stand-up sets has earned him the name “Godfather of Rap.” The film chronicles his rise to fame and the production of his first movie “Dolemite.” Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes co-star, as well as many other recognizable faces producing smaller yet amusing roles.


Not only is this film a biographical picture of Moore, but closely resembles Murphy’s rise to stardom, which began with his raunchy stand-up comedy routines. Although the film is based on the life of Rudy Ray Moore, this does not feel like a typical, formulaic biopic. Murphy brings his own experiences to the table, and it gives the film a fresh feel in a time when it seems biopics are flooding Hollywood. Rudy was born to entertain, and it seems Murphy was as well.


The movie explores subjects ranging from the struggles of trying to make it in show business, to cultural divides in entertainment, and representation in media. Numerous times throughout the film, aspects of popular culture are examined and critiqued through the lens of the main characters, mainly how white culture is so dominant in America. Everything from taste in comedy to standards of beauty is covered in a comedic, yet tasteful way by this film. “Dolemite Is My Name” suggests that one culture does not need to dominate the other, but multiple groups can celebrate their respective heritages and coexist.


Murphy does an amazing job of conveying over-the-top recitation of now-famous comedy routines by Moore, as well as capturing the frustrated and determined man that left an impact on the entertainment industry. This is one of the best performances Murphy has ever delivered. Murphy not only had to portray the real person but was up to the task of acting as Moore who was acting as the character of “Dolemite,” an impressive feat for any actor. 


One weakness of the film could be considered a strength by some viewers. The film takes a risk by featuring two primary conflicts that closely mirror each other, but it pays off and turns out to be tastefully poetic. The distinct three-act structure is all too familiar in biopics, but the three acts in this movie flow more like a song than an old trope. 


“Dolemite Is My Name” is easy to laugh along with and is informative as well. Seeing Eddie Murphy back on the big screen is refreshing as ever, and with performances like these, audiences will surely be asking for more.

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