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Laramie Movie Scope: Dolemite is My Name

A struggling entertainer finally succeeds

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 4, 2020 – For those unaware of the legend of Rudy Ray Moore, this movie seems like a fictional success story with a Hollywood ending (like “Bowfinger”) but it turns out to be an incredible true story based on a real man's life.

Set way back in the 1970s when “blaxploitation” films like “Shaft” (1971) “Superfly” (1972) and “Foxy Brown” (1974) were popular with inner city audiences, Rudy Ray Moore (played by Eddie Murphy) is a struggling singer and stand up comic whose career seems to be going nowhere. Radio stations won't play his records and people don't laugh at his jokes.

Then Rudy hits upon a new idea. He hears an old black homeless man making a rhyming spiel about his wildly exaggerated sexual prowess in a persona he calls Dolemite. It draws some laughs at the record store where Rudy works. Rudy decides this spiel could be the basis for a new comedy routine. He finds the homeless man, and others, and records these rhyming stories, adding his own touches.

He takes on the name Dolemite (pronounced dole-a-mite) and audiences respond with laughter at these wildly profane stories. He decides to make a comedy record, recorded before a live audience using the same material. No record company will touch this obscene material, but he is able to make the records and sell them on his own. His success attracts the attention of the Bihari Brothers, founders of Modern Records, Meteor Records and other labels.

Money starts rolling in for Rudy, but he has to make long, difficult promotional tours to get the word out about his records. After watching a movie with his friends, he has another big idea. In order to get his material out to a bigger audience, he decides to make a movie, starring himself, even though he has no idea how to do that.

The process of making the film is hilarious. The film is set in an abandoned hotel with electricity stolen from a nearby building. The cast and crew is made up of Rudy's friends and a host of others that Rudy manages to talk into making the film one way or another, including actor D'Urville Martin (played by Wesley Snipes of “Blade”) who is lured into the project by Rudy offering him the coveted creative job of director. He also lures screenwriter Jerry Jones (played by Keegan-Michael Key of “Keanu”) and also gets film students to run the cameras and sound equipment.

He sinks all of his money into the movie project, and he bets ownership of his record copyrights against a loan from the Bihari Brothers to finance the movie. Even operating on a shoestring budget, he is way over his head in debt by the time the movie, “Dolemite” (1975) is finally finished. No distributor will touch his film, and the project seems to be dead, but Rudy Ray Moore is not a man who is easily defeated by nay sayers.

Rudy Ray Moore's infectious rhyming schemes later became the foundation for rap music. One of the performers who acknowledges Moore's contribution to music is Snoop Dog, who appears in this movie as a D.J. This is really an amazing story of a man overcoming overwhelming odds to become a success. It seems so unlikely that I was really astonished to find out that it is a true story. Some film clips of the real Rudy Ray Moore and others appear at the end of the film.

This film is expertly directed by Craig Brewer of “Black Snake Moan” and “Hustle & Flow” and Eddie Murphy is perfect in the role of Rudy Ray Moore, and he's backed by fine supporting performances by Wesley Snipes and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who plays Lady Reed/Queen Bee. This is a very funny movie. Of course the language is extremely profane, and there is some nudity as well, so if those things bother you, steer clear. But this is one of the best movies of 2019. It rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2020 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]