Eddie Murphy is all pimped out and ready to rid his community of evildoers in the first trailer for the comic biopic, Dolemite Is My Name. It’s Director Craig Brewer’s tribute to Rudy Ray Moore, a singer, dancer, and comedian in the 1960s and 1970s who went on to make a classic of blaxploitation film. (NB: The trailer is not entirely safe for workplace viewing.)
Moore claimed he got the idea for the Dolemite character while working in a Hollywood record store, where one of the locals used to tell obscene tall tales about a man named Dolemite. Moore adapted the persona into his act and released three albums of his frequently raunchy material accompanied by jazz and R&B musicians. Because of his delivery style (which typically involved rhyming lyrics), Moore is often called the “Godfather of Rap.” (Snoop Dogg, who has a cameo in the biopic, has said, “Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that’s for real.”)
Moore slowly built up a cult following, despite the fact that his albums (including the cover art) were much too vulgar to be publicly displayed in record stores. With the rise of “blaxploitation” films in the early 1970s, Moore saw an opportunity to bring the character Dolemite to the moviegoing masses. He financed his first film himself with royalties from his record sales. The result was the instant blaxploitation classic Dolemite, released in 1975, about “the ultimate ghetto hero” in the tradition of Shaft. Dolemite knew kung-fu, was a sharp dresser, was known for his sexual prowess, and was committed to ridding his neighborhood of criminal influences. The film’s success spawned several sequels, although Moore’s material never really made it to the mainstream.
That’s pretty much the plot of Dolemite Is My Name, judging by the trailer. We see Moore (played by Murphy) creating the character of Dolemite, right down to picking out an exciting lime-green suit for his act. We also see his growing frustration when his various unapologetically raunchy albums prove to be unmarketable through the usual channels. “A man slam a door in my face, I just find another door,” he declares.
Then Moore goes to the movie theater and has an epiphany: he’ll make his own film, with Dolemite as the central character. “If I get up in that light with my own movie, I could be everywhere at once,” he says. He even recruits a bona fide film star, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), by promising to let Martin direct. Who cares if Moore doesn’t actually know karate or kung fu? He declares himself a fast learner. From the looks of it, all does not go as planned, from a slightly bigger car explosion than expected, to the set actually falling down around the actors mid-sex scene. (Bonus points for the cheesy fake entrails.)
The cast also includes Chris Rock, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Ron Cephas Jones, Mike Epps, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Keegan-Michael Key.
Dolemite Is My Name will debut at the Toronto Film Festival in September and will screen in select theaters this fall. It will also be available on Netflix. That gives you a little time to prepare, should you wish, by rewatching the original Dolemite and its sequels, The Human Tornado (1976) and The Return of Dolemite (2002), as well as the 1999 quasi-sequel, Shaolin Dolemite (1999).
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix