Dolemite Is My Name ★★★★

From Ed Wood to Man on the Moon to Big Eyes, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski write biopics about creative types that assuage a lot of my problems with the format. I think it's because of how their takes rally behind their subjects, striving to present events in the best possible light, to a degree that's clearly meant more as tribute than mere candy-coating. This somehow dilutes the sting of artifice I find in the usual biopic's convenient, coincidental plotting, and even the blatant inaccuracies that stand out when I already know about the subject. For instance, as I've seen others mention, this valentine to comedian Rudy Ray Moore centers on his quest to make his own blaxploitation flick, the legendary Dolemite, yet it repeatedly presents memorable scenes from the sequel as if they were part of the first movie. Having reveled in Moore's major filmography decades ago, this distortion was egregious enough to mildly annoy the stickler nerd in me. However, it's a negligible flub because The Human Tornado is an overall wilder and more confident movie, and if your mission is to quickly translate Moore's unique cinematic charm to an unfamiliar audience, it's worth piling on the hits.

Dolemite Is My Name celebrates Rudy Ray Moore by attractively conjuring an idealized 1970s realm for him, tripling down on the funky music and fashions and hairdos and clothing. Eddie Murphy assists the balance of verisimilitude while honoring one of his youthful idols, not with imitation but with sheer attitude, humility and humanity. The only time he really sounds like Rudy is when he's recording the trailer narrations, but there were times I legit forgot it was Murphy playing him, which I was not expecting. Wesley Snipes' hysterically pompous D'Urville Martin and Da'Vine Joy Randolph's sweet portrayal of Lady Reed stand out as well, while the rest of the cast is personified by a friendly parade of funny guys (Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson). I cannot tell you what a gas I got from seeing Bob Odenkirk as Dimension Pictures founder Lawrence Woolner, or how much I'd love to see a crossover where he squares off against Mike Starr's George Weiss from Ed Wood over regional distribution rights for some hot '60s nudie flick.

If you know nothing about Moore, that classic Alexander/Karaszewski joint really is the best reference point for Dolemite Is My Name. It is also about an American man who, fortysome years ago, overcame financial and logistical odds through his personality and willpower, and came out with an idiosyncratic cult "bad movie" beloved throughout the ages. Although I haven't seen Craig Brewer's previous efforts (he directed Hustle & Flow, which I've meant to watch going on 15 years now), the flashy style here felt much more anonymous than Wood's unmistakably Burtonian black and white shimmer. That's ultimately no more a problem than passing off scenes from The Human Tornado like they're from Dolemite, though. This movie is so disarmingly fun, inclusive and goodhearted that nitpicking just feels inappropriate.

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