There’s some key appealing attributes to this ‘long-overdue’ sequel that will likely get many people on board. One of them being the return to comedy for one of the very best to have done it in this business, Eddie Murphy. The other being a sweet little time capsule for fans of the ’88 original ‘Coming to America’. If like me you aren’t all that familiar with the ’88 classic in which this is the direct sequel, then you wont have that longing attachment to these characters or its quirky humour.
So, I did my homework and sat down to watch Murphy’s first outing as the Prince of Zamunda with Coming to America. Unsurprisingly it had me laughing and I enjoyed the many characters that the duo of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall bought to the screen. Many of the jokes still hold up even in todays standards despite feeling far removed from todays society. As it turns out though, the title isn’t the only noticeable similarity between the sequel and its predecessor. As a matter of fact this sequel entirely hinges on its nostalgic roots. Many of the jokes, characters and plot points are major call backs to the original, so a refresher viewing would be highly recommended.
Starting with the plot (which is very similar to the predecessor), Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) takes the throne of fictional African nation Zamunda, after the death of his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones). In the years since the events of both movies, Akeem and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) raise their three daughters. But with no son to continue the legacy and become heir to the throne when Akeem’s time comes, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) of Nextdooria (yep, read that again the joke is right there) offers up his moronic offspring with the intent of marriage to Akeem’s eldest daughter, Meeka (KiKi Layne). Akeem isn’t so overjoyed about such offering, especially when he discovers the news of a bastard son of his that was born after he and his pal Semmi’s first trip to the US from the previous movie.
So that brings the reasoning for the now king of Zamunda and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to take a trip back to where it all started, Queens, NY. The pair travel to both familiar and unfamiliar places as they look to locate King Akeem’s son.
The segments that see Akeem and Semmi return to Queens are the real highlights. Both Murphy and Hall reprise their comedic barbershop caricatures and you’ll get cameos thrown at you left, right and centre. The cast all look like their having the time of their lives and doesn’t seem as though it needed a great deal of convincing for some to return to their roles. Although one absence in particular is what I expect most people would be dying to see.
Coming 2 America is unfortunately little more than an easy cash opportunity, to reunite fans of the original with some old friends after 33 years. It resorts to telling tired gags and hangs on every cameo or reference to deliver those all important chuckles.
Murphy is perfectly fine here but it ultimately falls down to the sheer joy of watching him on the screen again. We don’t get quite that same energy we get from him in the prior movie and as a result there’s a significant drop in quality. Big fans of Hall’s Semmi are also likely to be disappointed as he isn’t much of a key player here at all. Hall’s better moments come from the other personas he takes on. Including that of the odd and eccentric Baba.
Who does steal the better portion of the movies more memorable moments however is Wesley Snipes. His take on General Izzi was a welcoming surprise. Strutting into every frame with the same level of anarchic swagger that your Dad has on a wedding dance floor, after he’s pinched the remaining bottles of prosecco off of all the tables. What energy that can’t be seen elsewhere can be found through Snipes’ unorthodox and bizarre performance. Whilst there are some jokes that point towards Murphy lacking that hip/modern dad vibe, Snipes’ Izzi is more warranted of earning that credit.
An awful lot falls on the youngsters, certainly in terms of story. The three daughters, Meeka (KiKa Layne), Omma (Bella Murphy) and Tinashe (Akiley Love) all have their moments. Meeka in particular who is not best pleased with her father wanting to keep the tradition of a male led nation. Of course the bastard son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) gets the brunt of the material though. Accompanied by his mother Mary (Leslie Jones), the two are happy to take up their royals and see what pleasures lie ahead in the future.
Coming 2 America seems to be directly aimed at those that are dear fans of the original. So if like me you don’t fall into that category, director Craig Brewer’s sequel will do little for you. Sure there’s moments that will earn a chuckle or two, and it brings the goods in terms of surprise appearances, both from a returning perspective and one time wonder, but it can be better summarised as a selection of skits.
I guess you’re better off hearing from the real fans as to whether or not this is a worthy sequel. But from a neutral perspective this falls short on the potential it could have seized if it had decided to be bolder, and chose to leave the past in the past.