Eddie Murphy‘s career has strafed some rather low valleys, but he’s never far from another upswing. Like fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Adam Sandler, Murphy seems like he can turn the old talent on whenever he feels like it, the only issue being that those times are fewer and farther apart these days.
A good Eddie Murphy performance is like Halley’s Comet — dependable if infrequent, and dazzling when it does happen. The good news is that he seems to have activated Actually Trying Mode in the trailer for his upcoming star vehicle Dolemite Is My Name, soon to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before getting uploaded to Netflix‘s content library.
Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, a struggling stand-up comedian who found unlikely success in his invented character of Dolemite, a quick-talking pimp with a hot temper and a well-renowned sexual potency. Though the character was born on open-mic stages, he found a bigger life than his creator had ever imagined on the blaxploitation cinema circuit, where the 1975 feature Dolemite proved a surprise sleeper hit with audiences picking up what Moore was putting down.
The film (directed by Craig Brewer, his past credit on Hustle and Flow most relevant in this particular gig) chronicles the conception and ascent of the Dolemite character, with a strong supporting cast peopling Moore’s colorful world. Keegan Michael-Key, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps, and Wesley Snipes make up the motley film crew that brought Dolemite to movie theaters and made Ray a star.
Save some groanworthy soundbites in which a tearful, grateful actress thanks Moore for onscreen representation, it looks like an antic restaging of an especially eccentric chapter of film history. And if nothing else, we’re going to get some truly extravagant ’70s hats.
Published 12 Aug 2019
By Anton Bitel
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