Tag Archives: Craig Robinson

TIFF19: Dolemite Is My Name

Rudy Ray Moore is a real-life man who made something of himself. He started from the bottom, begging people just to notice him, but eventually finds his niche, creating a character named Dolemite and telling jokes on stage and on comedy albums to very appreciative (mostly black) audiences. He’s a success by any measure, but after a lifetime of being told no, he sets his sights even higher, wanting to take his character to the big screen even though the studio system refuses to make room for him.

This is the role Eddie Murphy was born to play; he is truly at his very best here, more alive and in his skin than I’ve seen him in a long time. His joy is infectious. A long time passion project for Murphy, it’s clear all the cast has caught the bug as well. It truly feels as though everyone is proud to help bring this story to the screen, and to a new generation’s attention. The exceptional ensemble cast, including Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps, and the lovely Da’Vine Joy Randolph, has a shared energy and passion making for a veritable party on the screen. It’s easy to join in and feel part of the fun.

Dolemite was a character just waiting to be born from years worth of cultural stories and jokes passed down generationally in the African-American community. Moore tapped into this consciousness, giving Dolemite back to his people, and director Craig Brewer ensures that he will not be forgotten. Watching Murphy as Moore find the groove of this Dolemite character is pure magic, a privilege to see. Moore achieved fame as a blaxploitation star in his own right and on is own terms, and he reached back, creating opportunities for others as well as himself, recognizing and picking up spare talent along the way. It’s a remarkable story and kind of an inspiration – in a weird way, a lot like Tommy Wiseau and The Disaster Artist.

But Dolemite is such a unique character and Murphy such a massive talent that this film is simply undeniable. Also rude, crude, and vulgar – not fit for a dog to see, as they say. The best kind of dirty. Dolemite is his name. Fucking up mother fuckers is his game. And for a time, it can be yours.

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn

Lulu is a waitress in a coffee shop when she is unceremoniously fired by her manager, Shane Danger, who is also her husband. Home all day, she notices that their house could use some upgrades, starting with a bigger, better TV, but Shane says this isn’t a good time for spending since they’re down to a single income. Lulu mocks her husband for having so little in the way of savings. Even her brother Adjay has more. Cut to: Shane, an idiot, robbing Adjay of his savings. Only Adjay doesn’t take it too kindly; he hires Colin to retrieve the money and shoot Shane in the kneecaps.
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Of course, what actually happens is: Lulu (Aubrey Plaza) absconds with Colin (Jemaine Clement) and the money. They hide out in a nameless hotel that’s been advertising a magical Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. Beverly (Craig Robinson) and his platonic (?) partner Rodney have been cooling their heels in this hotel for days, postponing their show, and Lulu is determined to hook up with Beverly, whom she seems to have known in the past. Lulu is obsessed with Beverly, Colin is obsessed with Lulu, and Shane (Emile Hirsch) isn’t really obsessed with anything, but he’s always in the way.

I watched this movie on the strength of its cast, which was already a mixed bag. It has pretensions. I think maybe it wants to be Wes Anderson-ish or even John Waters-ish; the dialogue is heavily stylized, although it often mistakes style for screaming, and sorrier still, Robinson’s character for some reason only grunts\growls which gets SO old SO fast. The costumes are outlandish but unexplained.

I was ready to turn this movie off so many times and only my cheapness (rental fee: $5.74) kept me in the game. You can tell director Jim Hosking is going for an out-of-the-box experience, but nothing works, and I’m pretty much the prime audience for quirky material. When a movie like this works, we call it absurd, and we giggle delightedly. But An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn isn’t absurd, it’s only stupid, and instead of laughing, I played sudoku on my phone to pass the time. I want to love a movie that takes risks and tells its story in an off-kilter way, but this one didn’t feel fun to me. It was an exercise in patience and it tested my nerves. Regrettably, this is a hard no for me.

Table 19

I sort of wonder if this is an oddball comedy or just a comedy filled with oddballs. It IS filled with oddballs, that’s the premise. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is the ex-maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding. Having recently been broken up with the bride’s brother\best man, she knows she shouldn’t be there but to prove a point she RSVPs yes, and as a reward for her bravery, she gets seated at dreaded table 19 with all the other losers and rejects who should have known better.

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They’re a gang of misfits and the wedding is doomed for them. The critics have doomed Table 19 entirely, but I thought it had its charms. There’s certainly a lot of sympathy for the odd ducks of the world, and the performances are pretty winning (Squibb and Merchant being favourites). Some of the gags are tired but it’s kind of nice to see the weirdos normally relegated to the background have a moment in the spotlight. A Mumblecore film more concerned with characters and dialogue than plot, this movie isn’t going to light the world on fire. But like any wedding, it can be made tolerable with an open bar.