Despite what you might think of Eddie Murphy's output in the past ten, maybe fifteen years, the fact remains that he has been a part of some of the greatest comedies ever made.
'Trading Places, '48 Hrs.', 'Coming To America', 'Beverly Hills Cop', his stand-up specials 'Raw' and 'Delirious' effectively defined the format, and after all these iconic and groundbreaking efforts, his career seemed to have petered out with the likes of 'Holy Man' and 'A Thousand Words', the latter of which never even received an Irish release. Come to think of it, 'Mr. Church', his movie prior to 'Dolemite Is My Name', didn't receive an Irish release either.
Releasing strategies aside, it's a welcome relief to say that 'Dolemite Is My Name' is Eddie Murphy's funniest movie in years and watching him spin his way around the screen, you can tell that he's actually enjoying himself. Playing underground comic Rudy Ray Moore has been a passion project for Murphy for years, but only Netflix were willing to put up the money to make it a reality.
Murphy leads the cast of characters like Moore himself, his infectious energy and irrepressible nature just leaps out of every scene and never fails to be affecting. It's as if Murphy himself has rediscovered his love of comedy and performance through Moore's story, who didn't reach his cultural zenith until later in his career and forged a secondary career as the effective inspiration for rap music as we know it today.
Director Craig Brewer blends together the humour and the heart with ease, and his work on the likes of 'Black Snake Moan' means that he's able to lift up the dramatic moments without unbalancing the two. Likewise, the script from veterans Larry Karasewski and Scott Alexander leans heavily into the biopic tropes, but so what when it's this affecting? Rudy Ray Moore's story was that classic Hollywood tale, so why not tell it like it is?
The supporting cast, including Keegan Michael Key as playwright Jerry Jones, Craig Robinson, Titus Burgess, Mike Epps, and an incredibly game Wesley Snipes as the director / actor D'Urville Martin, all add up together as a cracking ensemble, but really, this is Murphy's show. His portrayal of Moore never feels like it's self-congratulatory, and it's clear that Murphy is doing his best work in that he never overplays him just for laughs.
The movie does suffer somewhat from being probably a little too formulaic, but it's only a slight complaint and not enough to stop you from enjoying what is truly one of the funniest movies of the year.