Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a truly impactful entertainment vehicle since his Oscar-nominated supporting role as an R&B singer in decline in the 2006 musical “Dreamgirls.” But, at age 58, the one-time surefire box-office bait and “Saturday Night Live” superstar is back — and Netflix has him. And judging by the adoring crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival that greeted the comedian and his ode to ’70s blaxploitation icon and profane underground filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore in “My Name Is Dolemite,” Murphy is more than welcome.
Recounting the rousing response by the fest crowd to Murphy and his film directed by Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”), The Wrap’s Steve Pond writes, ” ‘Dolemite’ is the Eddie Murphy show, with the comic delivering his most substantial and spirited performance in many years.” The supporting cast also stands out with such ace performers as Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, Wesley Snipes and Tituss Burgess — as well as a career-launching turn by Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
Reviewer John DeFore of “The Hollywood Reporter” is a bit disappointed that such a colorful and unique individual as Moore who catered to black audiences is portrayed in such a conventional way, noting that the film has “its share of laughs and surprising anecdotes but little of the enduring strangeness that kept the 1975 ‘Dolemite’ rattling around in our cultural memory.”
Brian Truitt of “USA TODAY” is more enthusiastic about seeing Murphy in the guise of Moore’s boastful pimp and cult action hero: “Murphy wears that signature grin of his while embracing the absurdities of the Dolemite character. He karate-chops with gusto (if not grace), has a squad of kung fu prostitutes, literally brings the house down with his sex scenes and really shouldn’t be allowed to use a firearm. Dolemite is like six “SNL” personas in one, and they’re all a hoot.”
Collider critic Matt Goldberg, who delivered a grade of B to the biopic, writes: “A film in the vein of ‘Let’s put on a show!’ celebrations like ‘Ed Wood’ (which shares “Dolemite Is My Name’s writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski) and ‘The Disaster Artist,’ Brewer avoids trying to paint a complex portrait of Moore and instead heralds him as a dogged, relentless dreamer who didn’t want to let anything stand in his way.” But ultimately, “With Eddie Murphy giving a lively and memorable performance in the center, we can’t help but fall in love with this legend.”
One has to applaud the actor who voice Shrek’s sassy sidekick Donkey and whose 1987 “Eddie Murphy Raw” still holds the record as the No. 1 stand-up film of all time, grossing $50.5 million worldwide before inflation is ready again to be a presence in our lives. Besides “Dolemite Is My Name,” which opens in theaters on Oct. 4 and starts streaming on Netflix Oct. 25, he will host “SNL” for the first time in more than 30 years, starring in the “Coming 2 America” sequel next year and is launching a stand-up concert tour for 2020.
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