This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I write movie reviews for whatever I watch.
Once again, objectively, this is probably more of a four-star film because of some story elements that aren't explained as well as I think they should have been that I'll talk about later. However, I just can't deny how much this movie made me smile throughout the course of its runtime. I just couldn't keep this giddy grin off my face as the events of this movie unfold, watching all of these really entertaining people come together to make something entertaining and working hard to get it in the public eye.
All of the performances are fantastic here. Of course, everyone's talking about how stupid it was that Eddie Murphy wasn't nominated for an Oscar, and I think they're right for that reaction. I adore Murphy's energy so much, and he delivers that energy once again in what might be my personal favorite role of his -- and I grew up with Shrek! This man owns every single moment he's on screen, but so does everyone else. I definitely don't want to overshadow any of the other actors because they were all fantastic. Admittedly, Keegan Michael Key doesn't stand out to me as much as he usually does, but I don't think that's necessarily his fault. It could have been a combination of the writing for his character and the way he chose to perform it, it could have just been the writing, I don't know, but this definitely isn't one of my favorite performances of his. Everyone else, however, steals every minute of screen time they have. Just to name a few, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Luenell, even actors such as Chris Rock, Bob Odenkirk, and freaking Snoop Dogg!! Everyone in this movie gives such a fantastic performance, but the performance I TRULY don't want overshadowed is that of Wesley Snipes. I don't know why, but every time this guy came on screen and reacted to the stupid and crazy things Rudy Ray would do, I just laughed. His energy is just as infectious as Murphy's in this movie, and I definitely don't want him overshadowed here.
The overall writing, direction, and tone of the movie in general is just charming. This movie does a great job at showing us just how hard Rudy Ray works to get what he wants, and it makes us care about his situation a lot more. There's elements of stand-up comedy that you really have to sell in order to convince the audience that you can make it. If the actor isn't actually funny during the stand-up routines in their respected film, the audience isn't going to believe that people think they're funny and that they actually have the chance to make it. It's a bit like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in that sense: great direction and a fantastic and funny lead performance convince you that the character is funny when given the right material and make you want to see them succeed. It's an important element, and that's something this movie nails very early on.
In terms of flaws, I would say that the entire set-up for this movie is a bit odd for one specific reason. The idea behind the character of Dolemite starts with Rudy Ray hearing stories from a homeless man. He records those stories and incorporates them into a whole new routine, and you never actually see Rudy Ray asking the man if he can do that or if he likes what he's doing with the material and he never even really acknowledges him in any way. The whole set-up for that story just feels really off because he never truly thanks the guy for giving him the idea that sets his career in motion. Maybe he didn't in real life, I don't know, and if that's the case, then I guess the movie got it right and they shouldn't have altered it to make it seem more squeaky-clean or something, it just felt really off to me.
I also feel that the character of Queen Bee, despite having a fantastic performance from Da'Vine Joy Randolph, doesn't have as much development as I would have liked. Early on, they set up that she might go into performing, but they only have her perform with Dolemite once before she works on the project that this movie's about, and that just felt underutilized to me. Also, I have a question: Is there a group of African-Americans out there like this? Obsessed with sex and explosions, clueless about who previous presidents of the United States are, and being constantly crude and loud and vulgar? Is there really a group of people out there like that? If there is, then cool, it's a subculture of America that I just don't understand, but if there isn't, I feel like this movie over-stereotyped certain aspects of that culture despite encouraging non-racist attitudes from BOTH blacks and whites towards each other. Can someone please tell me if cultures like that exist? I just genuinely don't know and would like to just to make sure I'm accurately critiquing the portrayal of specific groups of African Americans like this in a feature film.
Now, again, with all of those story flaws, I should probably give this film a four star rating, but I just can't. I smiled way too much and enjoyed this movie way too much not to give it 4.5. The performances are fantastic, the writing is witty and hilarious, and maybe it's just because I saw The Irishman earlier today (which is still great, don't get me wrong), but the pacing of this film just flew by and felt like an hour and a half at most. If you have Netflix and a couple of hours to spare and you need a laugh or a fun time watching a movie, I would say this is definitely one to check out. Eddie Murphy, keep doing what you're doing, dude. We all love you for it.
Letter Grade: A