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Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Murphy’

Eddy Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore

“DOLEMITE IS MY NAME” My rating: B- 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Aside from setting a cinema record for the number of times “motherf**cker” and its variants are uttered, “Dolemite Is My Name” reminds us of why Eddie Murphy remains one of our comedy treasures.

Murphy slips effortlessly into the skin of Rudy Ray Moore, the struggling singer who in the early ’70s reinvented himself with a series of gleefully lewd party albums, then transferred his alter ego “Dolemite” onto the big screen at the height of the blaxploitation craze.

That said, this comedic slice of entertainment history from director Craig Brewer– a white guy whose Afro-centric films include “Hustle and Flow” and “Blacksnake Moan” —  is so slow out of the gate that more than few viewers will be tempted to bail before the picture hits its stride.

In the waning days of the 1960s the middle-aged Rudy Ray, pot-bellied and jowly, managers a record store and desperately tries to peddle his r&b/funk recordings.  His career is going nowhere (and at this point neither is this movie).

Then Rudy Ray latches onto a vociferous homeless guy (Ron Cephas Jones of TV’s “This Is Us”) who in exchange for a pint or two regales him with tales of the comedic folk hero Dolemite, a sort of ghetto Br’er Rabbit who bombastically outsmarts, outfights and outscrews any and all who get in his way.

Moore develops a comedy act in which he dons Afro wig and colorful pimp regalia to portray Dolemite, telling his self-serving stories in rhymed raps of pyrotechnical profanity. Black audiences go crazy for Dolemite; Rudy Ray is soon making a tour of the chitlin’ circuit, selling his LPs out of his car trunk.

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Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy

“MR. CHURCH”  My rating: C+

104 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

An opening credit for “Mr. Church” claims that the film was “inspired by a true friendship.”

Actually it seems to have been inspired by every other racially-tinged tearjerker ever made.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work, at least part of the time.

Director Bruce Beresford (“Breaker Morant,” “Tender Mercies” and especially “Driving Miss Daisy”) is a skilled enough director to finesse many of the emotional and narrative landmines that litter Susan McMartin’s screenplay, and the performances of Britt Robertson, Natascha McElhone and Eddie Murphy in the title role are good enough that we’re moved…even if we resent it.

The film’s first five minutes unload enough revelations to fill an entire movie.  The time is the mid-’70s, the location Los Angles.

The beautiful Marie Brooks (McElhone) is the single mother to young Charlotte/Charlie (played as a child by Natalie Coughlan).  Charlie awakens one morning to find a rather elegant black man (Murphy) cooking a gourmet breakfast in the kitchen.

Charlotte is informed that the cook, Mr. Church, was bequeathed to Marie by her former lover, a wealthy  married man who before dying specified that Mr. Church work as a cook and caregiver until Marie’s death, and that thereafter he will continue to receive his salary for the rest of his life.

What Charlotte doesn’t know is that her mother is dying of cancer. Thus this unusual gift from her one-time paramour.

Except that Marie hangs in there. Expected to last only six months, she lives for another six years. And Mr. Church faithfully sticks around.

By this time Charlie is a teenager (Britt Robertson, who has the unusual ability to convincing play any age between 16 and 30). She heads to college on the East Coast, but after a year or two turns up on Mr. Church’s doorstep, pretty and pregnant. They resume the unofficial father/daughter relationship that has sustained them for most of Charlie’s life.

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