Coming 2 America
Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler, Wesley Snipes, Arsenio Hall
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…funny, cute and entertaining, but not even close to being essential…
1988’s Coming To America was a game-changing smash for Eddie Murphy. It not only showed that the famously foul mouthed comic was capable of playing it sweet, but also showcased Murphy’s brilliance at creating hilariously divergent characters through complex prosthetics and voice work. The story of Prince Akeem (Murphy), the leader of a small African nation who ventures to America to find a wife, Coming To America mined its classic fish-out-water tropes beautifully and made bank big time at the box office. Now, joining a long line of continuing late-in-the-game sequels (Cobra Kai, Blade Runner 2049, Star Wars, the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick), Coming 2 America revisits that success with enjoyable but far from staggering results.
Decades after the original, Prince Akeem is still running the show in his home nation of Zamunda (which seems to have been influenced more than a little by Marvel Studios’ Wakanda), with Queen Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters. But when he discovers (in a slightly dodgy piece of retconning) that he has an illegitimate son back in America, Akeem and his assistant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), head back to the US to bring Lavelle Junson (a nice turn from comedian Jermaine Fowler) home to Zamunda where he can take his place on the throne, and also marry the daughter of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes hamming it up with gusto), the ruler of the hostile neighbouring country, Nextdoria (yes, Nextdoria).
While it sensibly contemporises its themes (much is made of Zamunda’s backwards-thinking ways when it comes to the role of women in society), Coming 2 America undeniably feels a little out of date, despite the presence of Craig Brewer (who worked with Murphy on the excellent Dolemite Is My Name, as well as crafting the edgy Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow) in the director’s chair. It merely plays out as a reverse fish-out-of-water tale, and fails to do anything truly exciting with the characters and ideas from the original film. Sure, the new characters and actors (Snipes, Fowler, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones) are all rock solid, and it’s fun to see so many returning players from the 1988 film (Louie Anderson, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and yes, Murphy’s Randy Watson, amongst others), but Coming 2 America is another nostalgia-driven sequel that just first and foremost reminds us of how wonderful the original was. It’s funny, cute and entertaining, but not even close to being essential, and after such a long time, that’s just not good enough.