The original Coming to America is one of Eddie Murphy’s comedy classics from his famous hot streak which eventually collapsed into a pile of misbegotten titles like The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Norbit. Three decades later, Coming 2 America isn’t exactly the most timely continuation as comedy and legacy sequels are hard to pull off. This is one of those remake/sequel films except flipping the primary location from the US to Zamunda and now its the US native out of place. Murphy remains an extremely nimble and versatile performer as his Prince Akeem and the assorted side characters he plays are great, although sometimes Akeem seems to be frustratingly sidelined in his own franchise. While this is missing the hilariously jarring profanity bombs from the original, it still has a lot of fun. It’s probably most guilty of being an irrelevant sequel and has a wee bit too many musical numbers but it is enjoyable to see these characters again.
Over 30 years ago on his original trip to America to find true love, Prince Akeem (Murphy) of the kingdom of Zamunda is shocked to find he has a son. He had a half remembered one night stand with Mary (Leslie Jones) and now he has grown up son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), who Akeem has to bring back to Zamunda so he has a male heir. But meeting Akeem’s bastard son isn’t exactly making his wife, Lisa (Shari Headley), very happy. Nor is Lavelle’s appearance good for Akeem’s three daughters who are unable to take the throne. The arrival of Lavelle’s flamboyant family members like his Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan) is just generally annoying Akeem’s steadfast friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall). Also, the evil General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) wants to marry off his daughter to Lavelle to cement diplomatic ties. But, like his father before him, Lavelle wants to marry for love, falling for a local groomer, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha), which could upend everything.
Murphy is still enjoyable as Akeem, who has to now take over the kingdom after the passing of his father, Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones). Jones has a limited role as although it is great to see him again griping at his son. Especially bizarre when Joffer holds his funeral while alive so he can enjoy it and then wills himself to die while happy which is more heartwarming than that sounds. A flashback scene uses footage from the first film to show when Akeem and Semmi were on the town in New York trying to find a girl and the reaction of modern-day Akeem when he finally remembers what happened is hilarious. Hall as Semmi has sone funny outside reactions to his king’s decrees.
The best stuff remains how many random characters Murphy and Hall play throughout the movie in makeup. Murphy returns as the barber Clarence and customer Saul for some great quipping as Murphy has a good chemistry with himself, and Hall plays another barber, Morris, who gets in some great cracks. Hall also plays a crazy witch doctor lady in Zamunda and the overtly bombastic and leering Revered Brown who officiates a shotgun wedding and Murphy pops up as another character for a musical “We are Family” finale.
The rest of the movie is a bit mixed. There’s one amazing callback joke to the first film when Akeem dismissed his arranged marriage bride to be by telling her to hop on one leg and bark like a dog and 30 years later she is still hopping one leg and barking like a dog. The story for Coming 2 America is somewhat lazily remaking the original. The movie is somewhat self-aware of this too as at one point Lavelle and Mirembe are discussing how disappointing sequels can be. Lavelle having an arranged marriage that he then drops for finding true love amongst a commoner is basically the exact same thing as the first film but Mbatha as the love interest is genially pleasant. Fowler as Lavelle takes up a lot of screen-time and some points he’s dull and other points he has funny responses like when he is put through trials of endurance. Also amusing is when he dresses fancy for his public unveiling he wears the same outfit as T’Challa in Black Panther.
Akeem finds Lavelle because females cannot rule the kingdom which gives Akeem’s daughters a chance to show how competent they are compared to Lavelle’s ineptness, climaxing in a scene where the girls take down the mean General Izzi. Snipes as Izzy is bombastic and amusingly dopey. Jones and Morgan as Lavelle’s loud mouthed family members are good for humorous asides, like when on a Zamunda version of The Daily Show Morgan’s Reem gets into a fight with Hall’s Semmi. There’re a few musical numbers here, some of which work like the finale but one where Lavelle’s bride is singing about how great she is grinds the pacing to a halt.
Coming 2 America is a solid sequel that may be a bit creaky and derivative but it is breezy fluff. The best stuff is seeing Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall bounce between different characters. As far as long gestating sequels go, it’s better than expected.
Coming 2 America
Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Shari Headley