Eddie Murphy Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970s blaxploitation star with a cult following, in “Dolemite Is My Name.” (Netflix)

Eddie Murphy Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970s blaxploitation star with a cult following, in “Dolemite Is My Name.” (Netflix)

‘Dolemite’ is a dynamite comeback for the still-sharp Eddie Murphy

The star has his best role in many years as the Ed Wood of 1970s blaxploitation pictures.

In the first 10 minutes of “Dolemite Is My Name” we see Eddie Murphy strutting down a sidewalk in outlandish 1970s regalia, as a Sly and the Family Stone song plays.

My thought at that moment: Can we give Oscars for 10-second clips? Because Eddie Murphy crushes this particular sequence, conveying a complete vision of a character with just a few gestures (while parodying a similar quintessential ’70s moment in “Saturday Night Fever”).

Maybe “Dolemite” won’t win any Oscars, but Murphy is glorious in this knockabout story of comedian Rudy Ray Moore. It’s a shrewd comeback vehicle for a star who’s been overdue for a hit lately.

Rudy Ray Moore, who died in 2008, made his name with a series of X-rated comedy records recorded in his own house (his style of rhyming humor is said to have influenced rap). In 1975 he made his first, mostly self-financed movie, “Dolemite,” based on one of his characters.

Moore’s movies are pretty amazing; they exist in the sweet spot where inspiration and incompetence embrace. Exploitative and ridiculous, they feature Moore himself as a super-stud hero whose kung fu moves seem extremely questionable. They’re like folk art with guns and nudity.

Murphy understands the zany appeal of these things. As the producer of “Dolemite Is My Name,” he hired the screenwriters of “Ed Wood,” Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, to write this film.

So the new one picks up the theme of “Ed Wood”: There’s something funny but also weirdly touching about a moviemaker who presses on with his cinematic vision despite a notable absence of talent.

That’s a strong idea. The movie’s main problem is that it really just has this one idea, and it can’t figure out whether to laugh at Rudy Ray Moore for his ineptitude or applaud him for playing a key role in the blaxploitation craze.

Director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) finds the beat of the story, which moves at a bright pace. He and Murphy understand this can’t be a one-man show, so they’ve surrounded the star with a top-notch group of comic actors: Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Chris Rock and Keegan-Michael Key among them (the latter playing a highbrow playwright who is both alarmed and fascinated by Moore’s lowbrow approach to writing films).

Special mention to Wesley Snipes, as D’Urville Martin, the director and co-star of “Dolemite.” Extremely dubious about the project, Martin distances himself from his amateur colleagues, an attitude Snipes conveys with hilarious disdain.

“Dolemite Is My Name” doesn’t quite nail it, maybe because it likes Rudy Ray Moore too much to satirize him. But it’s a funny showbiz picture, and a welcome return for Eddie Murphy’s still-sharp talents.

“Dolemite Is My Name” (3 stars)

A funny showbiz send-up, and a welcome return for Eddie Murphy. The star plays Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970s X-rated comedian whose movies from the blaxploitation era are amazing in their technical ineptitude. The film really only has one idea — that we root for Rudy at the same time we laugh at him — but Murphy’s in great form and he has good co-stars: Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps.

Rating: R, for language, nudity, subject matter

Opening Friday: Ark Lodge, SIFF Uptown

Talk to us

More in Life

Some pilots land just to eat at Arlington airport restaurant

No measuring spoons: Executive chef LeeWay Morris brings his southern-style cooking to Ellie’s.

Drink This: Distillery switches from gin to hand sanitizer

Lynnwood’s Temple Distilling is now making the alcohol-based cleaner — but you can still order spirits.

We’d like to post your stories of random acts of kindness

Here is your chance to praise someone, thank someone or call attention to something good that’s happened.

Westport Winery transforms storied grapes into hand sanitizer

The Aberdeen winery used riesling to produce the cleaner for law enforcement and first responders.

Spice up dinner with this pizza-flavored chicken burger

Two of America’s favorite foods, pizza and burgers, combine in this pizza chicken burger.

You’ve never seen anything like this woman’s crafting room

Everett resident and retired teacher Melissa Halferty loves all things red, vintage and Frida Kahlo.

With a bidet, TP shortages no longer scare the crap out of us

This family ordered their new toilet just in time. Now bidets are either sold out or on back-order.

While stuck at home, Rick Steves reminiscences about Europe

Edmonds’ travel guru reflects on his favorite memories of experiencing Europe’s living traditions.

These are stressful times

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Most Read