Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) was a true from the streets success. And, a late bloomer, as it were. After years of trying to breakthrough as an entertainer in L.A., the 40-something Moore took some stories he heard around his neighborhood and created the stand up comedian character of the cocky Dolemite. That act lead to underground success with self-released record albums and touring. With the Blacksploitation film genre exploding, it was only a matter of time until Dolemite hit the big screen.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski's script traces those crucial years in Moore's life in the early 70s. A raw, rude and raucous screenplay it is. Director Craig Brewer mostly keeps to the spirit of the writing and lets the dialogue and the acting take center stage.
And, with Eddie Murphy delivering a strong energetic performance, it's best to stand back and let him fly. And, soar he does. With the makeup, hair and some extra pounds, Murphy takes on the dynamo persona of Moore/Dolemite. Occasionally, Murphy is "too good" an actor to totally capture the rough hewn Moore, who was more a force of nature than a smooth performer -- but, it's hard to fault him for giving "too good" a performance! Wesley Snipes is almost unrecognizable as D'urville Martin, a "name" actor who Moore lures by letting him Direct. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Nicholas Von Sternberg* Dolemite's cinematographer straight out of film school who leads a band of young white behind the scenes crew members. The real scene stealer is Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, a small town girl who Moore discovers on tour. The entire cast throws themselves into this with a verge and enthusiasm that is palpable.
The movie is a bit too long, with padded exposition and too close a fealty to the bio-pic template, but, as Dolemite himself might say: Who gives a $^@# about that!? You want action? You want laughs? You want some nasty?! We got it all!
Listen to Dolemite.
* Note: I've worked closely with Nick Von Sternberg, so yes, it's based on a true person. Very kind gentleman. Indeed, he is the son of master filmmaker Josef Von Sternberg (although he passed when Nick was still a teen). Nick worked for over two decades as a cinematographer before leaving the business.