Dolemite (DVD)

Doughy, mush-mouthed, and more than verging on middle age, Rudy Ray Moore made for an unlikely movie hero in 1975. But just past the peak of the blaxploitation era, the comedian became a full-fledged star with Dolemite, a breakthrough that came after years spent playing the nightclub circuit and releasing foul-mouthed party records. Others may be credited with writing and directing the peculiar film, but Dolemite is Moore's movie from start to finish, and viewers' enjoyment of it will doubtless depend on their tolerance of his unique cinematic vision. This includes extended sequences revolving around Moore's arrhythmic rhyming stand-up routines, some of the least convincing bits of violence this side of a Roadrunner cartoon, some of the least erotic sex scenes outside of a homemade Kelsey Grammer porn film, and an army of kung-fu-fighting hookers. But if you're game—and the moment in which a plump, just-released Moore teasingly, awkwardly changes into full pimp regalia before a pair of repulsed-looking prison guards ought to tell you whether you're in or not—Dolemite is just awesome. In it, Moore plays the title character, a high-class hustler, nightclub owner, and natty dresser who's released from prison to work with the FBI in bringing down evil mack D'Urville Martin (who also directs). But before he sets about doing this, Moore takes some time to romance his long-neglected stable of beautiful women and re-establish his reputation as the baddest motherfucker around. Amateurish and clumsy, to say the least, Dolemite may not be the piece of our cinematic heritage most deserving of the DVD treatment, but there's no denying its enduring appeal, either. Moore is so uncharismatic, he works his way back around to become incredibly charismatic, and so does the film.

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