Don’t call it a comeback! Two of the biggest comedy stars of the past few decades have new movies out — but are either of them worth your time? John Turnbull answers.
Directed by Craig Brewer (2019)
The career of Eddie Murphy has had a lot of ups and downs. He gained fame as a Saturday Night Live cast member and boundary-pushing stand-up comedian, Murphy soon moved on to worldwide acclaim in the 1980s with movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places and Coming to America. Things took a bit of a turn in the 90's with flops like Boomerang, Metro and Holy Man. During this time there were also commercially successful but lightweight movies like The Nutty Professor and Doctor Dolittle. It would be family comedies that provided Murphy’s first renaissance, with Shrek’s spirited Donkey leading the way, but for every franchise success, there was a Meet Dave or Tower Heist.
Now it’s 2020, and Eddie Murphy may well have made the best movie of his career. Playing real-life comedy legend Rudy Ray Moore, Murphy avoids the temptation to chew the scenery, he plays Rudy Ray as a talented but increasingly desperate man. When Rudy Ray is in character as Dolemite, however, the gloves are off and Murphy gives a blinder of a performance that recalls his stand-up days.
Supporting Murphy in his Oscar-snubbed performance is a talented cast, including Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps and Snoop Dogg, along with cameo appearances from Wesley Snipes and Chris Rock. Even if you’ve never watched a Blaxploitation movie, Dolemite Is My Name is a must-see, providing a window into a cinematic world that no longer exists.
Dolemite Is My Name is now streaming on Netflix.
Directed by Kevin Smith (2019)
Kevin Smith is famous for not caring what critics think of his movies — which is a sensible form of self-defence at this stage of his career. After a string of objectively awful movies, including Cop Out, Red State, Yoga Hosers and Tusk, Smith found a new home directing TV shows, such as Supergirl, The Flash and The Goldbergs. He also releases a bunch of podcasts every week, but your tolerance for those will depend on your ability to listen to someone talk about themselves for hours at a time.
There are a lot of big names with not a lot to do in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Hemsworth, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson and Justin Long, along with a cast of vaguely-recognisable Smith alumni, like Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and Shannon Elizabeth. Remarkably, one of the better performances in the movie comes from Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith, who was pretty wooden in Yoga Hosers but has since shown promise in a small role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Harley plays Jay’s estranged daughter, who has a Muslim friend called Jihad — representative of the casual racism and homophobia that pervades this movie.Essentially telling the same story as 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Reboot sees our titular anti-heroes travelling to Hollywood to stop a reboot of the Bluntman and Chronic movie, now starring Val Kilmer and Melissa Benoist (from the Supergirl TV series) in the title roles. Along with the relentlessly juvenile tone, this obsession with fan service is the main reason Reboot is such a punish to watch; Smith seems so delighted to be hanging out with all his movie buddies, he hasn’t bothered to make an entertaining, coherent or even slightly watchable movie. And I say this as a Kevin Smith fan…
It may sound obvious but, the director is probably the most important person on a movie set. You can have the best actors in the world, the most experienced producer and the most visionary director of photography, but if the director is a hack, then the movie is still going to suck.
Craig Brewer, director of Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, is no hack, despite his paycheck performance directing the lifeless Footloose remake in 2011. Brewer knows what he wants to say on screen and is one of the few White directors to cast people of colour almost exclusively.
Kevin Smith, while he seems like a nice guy, could fairly be called a hack. He’s made one great movie (Clerks, way back in 1994) and has been trading on it ever since. While he’s self-aware enough to admit this (some of the funnier gags in Reboot are about how much Smith sucks) this doesn’t make his movies watchable. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is for die hard Smith fans only.
Dolemite Is My Name — 8/10
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot — 2/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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