Movie Review – Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Hey 3.5 rat soup eaters.

BQB here with a review of this Netflix film.

The first scene of this movie packs a punch, albeit in a subtle, understated way.  (Look away if you 3.5 honkies don’t want any spoilers.)

Down and out entertainer Rudy Ray Moore has recorded an album and is pleading his heart out, begging a DJ played by Snoop Dogg to play his song.  Snoop is sympathetic.  He listens but ultimately denies the request. He just can’t waste his airtime on a nobody.

We instantly feel for Rudy.  He’s middle aged.  He’s chubby and not the best looking dude.  We aren’t sure whether to root for Rudy for holding onto a young man’s dream well past the time where most people let such fantasies go, or to take Rudy aside and tell him to give up gracefully.  Snoop, whose touch of gray hair says it all, advises the latter, telling Rudy, “We missed our shots.”  In other words, the DJ wishes he’d achieved something greater than DJing, but knows he can’t go back to his youth and try again.  He knows how Rudy feels, but he can’t help him.

Just when we think we can’t feel any worse for Rudy, the camera pans out to reveal that Rudy wasn’t at a radio station.  He was in the DJ booth…at a record store.

It gets worse.  As Rudy steps behind the counter and starts helping customers, we learn that poor Rudy was turned down….by a DJ…for a record store…that he works at.

How low can you go?

As a wannabe self-publisher, I sympathize and perhaps any aspiring writers out there can sympathize with Rudy as well.  As the movie progresses, we learn Rudy came from nothing and moved to LA when he was young in search of stardom.  Now that he’s over the hill, there’s no shortage of people telling him to give it up, but he just can’t.

When he’s not working at the record store, he works nights as the host of a club, introducing various acts while attempting to try out a fledgling stand-up comic routine.  His boss, the club owner, shuts down that, ordering Rudy to just play it straight and intro the acts because no one wants to hear his jokes.

Long story short, Rudy spends some time amongst the bums.  As he does so, he learns a style of street comedy in which down and out African Americans one up each other, telling tall tales, exaggerations and dumping on each other with perfectly crafted insults, all with an air of bravado.

And thus, a star is born.  Taking on the persona of Dolemite, a fast talking, in your face pimp, Rudy kills it on the comedy circuit, leaving audiences in stitches, and even starts raking in the dough when he self-produces a string of comedy albums.

Not content to stop there, Rudy makes a movie.  And it’s a terrible, godawful movie.  He has no idea about the technical side of movie making, no idea about budgets or writing or any of the skills needed to put an idea onto the big screen.  All he has is money and he heavily leverages himself into debt, putting everything on the line just to hire the people he needs to make his dream come true.

The result is one of the shittiest movies ever made, yet it’s so shitty its good.  Overall, I loved this movie because it’s a real underdog story, a tale about someone who defied the odds, refused to listen to the naysayers and ultimately, his stubborn pursuit of a dream paid off.

Ironically, Dolemite may have very well been one of the world’s first movie self-publishers.

Also, big kudos for Eddie Murphy.  If you haven’t seen his appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee yet, there’s a part where he tells a touching story to Jerry Seinfeld about how, in his early days, his father gave him a ride into the city so he could perform at a club.  The idea was that the club owner would pay him and he’d use the money to catch a cab back home.  Alas, Eddie bombed, the owner wouldn’t pay, so he had to call his father and get an ear full all the way home about how dumb his dreams of standup comedy success were.

Eddie and Rudy may very well have been kindred spirits.  I’m not sure if Netflix released this in theaters, but if it is possible, I hope Eddie gets some Oscar recognition for this, because he’s overdue and does well in the role.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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