Dolemite is, indeed, his name. One of the benefits to Dolemite is My Name, the Eddie Murphy-led biopic shovelled out by the titans over at Netflix is that, to some, it will have opened up the blaxploitation avenue. Shaft this is not, neither as entertaining or as ground-breaking for the genre it resides in. Rudy Ray Moore marks his debut on the big screen after years of antagonism from his producers and the bigshots of Hollywood, refusing to give him the time of day. Admirable it may be for any person to pick themselves up and cut a path through the doubters with a self-funded film, Dolemite struggles to capture anything too brilliant.
There are fine moments to be found within, but none are of consequence or, unfortunately, much humour. A handful of moments to offer up some engaging lines or laughter, granted, but it is not worth slogging through the rest of the film for these moments. Moore is an exceptionally odd leading man, possessing neither the quality of an actor nor the timing of one either. D’Urville Martin directs with all the passion expected of a low-brow comedy filled with sex and fourth wall breaks. Surprisingly, those are the highlights of the piece.
It is better to have some high points than none at all, and those few moments salvage the weaker portions of Dolemite. Some elements of the piece are engaging enough to work, but not endearingly sufficient to hook an audience. Pockets of dated, poor comedy and shoddy performances can only entertain for so long, and that is, frankly, shorter than the length of a feature. Filler in comedy is rarely avoidable, but Dolemite is packed to the rafters with scenes that, again, would be good if they were isolated, but attempting to spin a narrative is where the film falls short. It is neither compelling or aiding the comedy, its purpose is to give Martin and his direction something to do. But even then, there is little to be mused on.
To appreciate Dolemite is to consider the message that came before it. An adoption of alter-egos led to the birth of the Dolemite character, and the lack of fresh faces found in the comedies of the 1970s is too a driving force behind why Moore made this film and those that followed it. Not too dreadful, but much of the comedy has hardened and turned stale over the decades after its release. Small pockets that are worth experiencing, but it is hard to recommend the piece in its entirety. An act of purposefully poor acting, or genuine incompetence, is present throughout. Whichever it may be is obsolete, the comedy isn’t up to scratch. Not anymore, anyway.