Dolemite Is My Name ★★★

It’s safe to assume that Eddie Murphy has always worshipped at the altar of “Dolemite” mastermind Rudy Ray Moore, as the lewd, brash, and infectiously self-possessed blaxploitation icon blazed the trail that Murphy later followed to his own fame. At the very least, Moore’s foul-mouthed comedy records (e.g. “Eat Out More Often”) and his total disregard for white audiences helped light the way forward. But Murphy, who was a Hollywood-minted star by the time he was 25, probably never thought he would relate to Moore’s hardscrabble career quite as much as he has in recent years. Once you get paid $15 million to star in “Beverly Hills Cop III,” you can only have so much in common with a pioneer who self-financed his most famous movie, cast it full of strippers he found at a local club, and four-walled it into a single Indianapolis theater.

But Murphy is in a different place these days. It’s been a minute since he’s had a hit, and more than a decade since he took an honest swing at the ball. “Shrek: Once Upon a 9” or whatever might pay the bills, but — on some level — Murphy must have known that he’d have to work for it if he ever wanted to feel like his old self again. And what better way for Murphy to get back to basics than by exhuming Moore’s legend and stepping right into his lime green pimp suit?

A breezy, joyful, balls-to-the-wall biopic about the making of Moore’s signature masterpiece, “Dolemite Is My Name” may not detonate with the same earthshaking force as the film that inspired it, but it’s exactly the kind of movie that Moore always had in mind for his target audience: Raw, unapologetically black, and filled to the motherfuckin’ brim with “titties, action, and kung-fu.” Well, maybe not the brim, but there’s enough of each ingredient to keep anyone from getting bored. More to the point, it’s a movie that forces Murphy to fight and scrape for every frame; a movie that winds him up before it starts and just lets him go off for two full hours; a movie that’s eager to evoke the manic genius that made him a star, the physical comedy that made him rich, and the wounded vulnerability that made him irreplaceable. By the time it’s over, “Dolemite Is My Name” feels like as much a tribute to Eddie Murphy as it is to Rudy Ray Moore. But there’s plenty of love to go around.

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