If we are to take anything away from Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix), it should be one thing: Rudy Ray Moore was a man in control of his own destiny. With a cast full of names like Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Keegan Michael Key, Mike Epps, Snoop Dogg, and Chris Rock just to name a few, a star-studded affair may make a difference in quality but this is about Rudy Ray Moore and what he was able to create.
Moore was portrayed by Eddie Murphy, who was able to capture the essence of hustling Moore, always attempting to find his place in life. The film takes place in Los Angeles around 1970, while Moore worked at a record store. He talks of being a singer, recording a handful of singles for record labels that promised him the world until they signed James Brown. His career fell to the backburner and Moore struggled with more misses than hits. As an emcee announcing for singers and musicians, he deals with much doubt and self-reflection, although giving up never seemed to be an option. The story of Rudy Ray Moore is one of reinvention and perseverance.
In 1970, Moore began hearing the obscene stories of “Dolemite” as told by local neighborhood homeless man Rico. Moore then decides to capture these stories by recording them from Rico and the number of other homeless that have stories of their own. He created his own stories using the sketches he was given to create his own pimped-out Dolemite. He soon decides to record a colorful and racy comedy album with stories about pimps, prostitutes, players, and hustlers. He released on his own, after several rejections. Basically, Moore was selling his album under the counter at the record store and out of his trunk, he was able to make a healthy amount before being approached by a label to release & distribute the album to the urban community that doesn’t “buy their records out of a trunk.”
Moore was surrounded by friends, portrayed by Epps, Robinson, Luenell, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Tituss Burgess who all supported him in his grandiose ideas of succeeding, putting in the necessary work that is involved in early DIY ventures. Growth was a large part of Moore’s own path, although he may not have even seen it in that way. Murphy was able to capture Moore at base levels, allowing the film to flow seamlessly from Moore’s passion from one medium to the next. After witnessing a pale attempt at humor through a Walter Mathieu and Jack Lemon film (The Front Page), his appetite grew, setting off on creating a movie for his fans. It was best noted, even when detractors attempted to shoot him down stating he’d be making a movie for people that live within his five-block radius, his idea was every city has five blocks that would go watch his film.
A helping hand comes in the form of Daddy Fatts, portrayed by Chris Rock in this small role. After enlisting Fatt’s cousin to showcase his film at a local theater while on tour, Rudy Ray Moore sets off on sharing his film one theater at a time. His perseverance paid off when Dimension Films, one of the studios that rejected his request for distribution, came calling. “Aren’t you the motherfuckers that rejected me?” Murphy says, and he always more than capable of channeling urban characters, even after years of doing movies for children, his energy was well placed as Rudy Ray Moore. Was Rudy Ray Moore lucky? No, even when he had a chance meeting with actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) because luck is where “opportunity meets preparation.”
Dolemite Is My Name is entertaining and gives an in-depth look at Rudy Ray Moore as the kind-hearted man he was, bringing his friends along with him for a journey that took him further than I’m sure he even believed. In the end when he tells a crowd of fans waiting to see his film at the premiere “Shoot for the moon and if you miss it, hold onto a motherfucking star!” you know, he was dead-ass serious about it.