HomeMoviesFantastic Fest Review: 'Dolemite is My Name' isn't just Another 'Ed Wood'

Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Dolemite is My Name’ isn’t just Another ‘Ed Wood’

Photo Courtesy Fantastic Fest

After screening in Toronto and making a surprise appearance at Fantastic Fest, Dolemite is My Name has already found a narrative as the best movie of its kind since Ed Wood. It’s been 25 years since a movie about a cult director making movies has been this good, but that might be the only connection. Dolemite, like its namesake is its own thing.

Ed Wood is a beautiful portrait of loving movies and the artists and their passion in the face of failure. That’s not Dolemite, which never makes the case or even hints at Rudy Ray Moore (aka Dolemite) having passion for movies or pop culture in general beyond using it as a means to find fame. He then finds fame on the backs of the black community and gets his start riffing on material from a previous generation. It’s the very definition of exploitation.

That’s not a judgment, though. Dolemite’s passion is self-serving to start, but director Craig Brewer helps weave a story that shows how important a figure Dolemite was and that “bad” art still serves a purpose. That’s the heart of the movie—and that’s not even to mention its comedic merits driven by Eddie Murphy’s rapturous performance as Dolemite.

The only place where Dolemite has a real home is center stage with a mic giving new life to tired jokes. And as self-involved as he may be crafting his image as a high roller, he also doesn’t turn his back on where he came from or his family and friends. None of them have any right to be making a movie. They’re one and the same.

For that matter, the whole ensemble works wonders for a script that lives for debauchery. Yet somehow, it feels homey and clean. Maybe it’s because its vulgarity is dropped so regularly that it loses all meaning, but it’s also a credit to a who’s who cast between Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key (who gives as close of a performance to his Key & Peele days since its finale), Mike Epps, Tituss Burgess and innumerable cameos and bit roles all the more enhanced by the infectious ’70s production design.

But this truly is a Murphy vehicle through and through. At times, Murphy seems to be giving an updated, more subdued take on his SNL character Mr. Robinson, but it’s really a testament to the special world and truth’s he’s been able to tap into for decades.

As Dolemite says while looking for financing for his film, his fans may only be in five neighborhoods but every city in the nation has those five neighborhoods. This is for them too, and in turn, is for everyone.

Dolemite is My Name opens in select theaters on October 4 and hits Netflix on October 25.


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