Comedian Eddie Murphy stars in the sequel to his 1988 comedy, ‘Coming To America‘. Whereas the original film mostly took place in Queens, New York, this sequel only briefly flies over from the kingdom Zamunda. This time the only reason to go back to the Big Apple, is to go find his illegitimate son and heir to the throne.
Unlike its predecessor, ‘Coming 2 America‘ isn’t written by Murphy himself, but I have to admit I enjoyed this sequel more than the first film. Given I only watched the 1988-film a couple of months ago, I felt it dragged and a lot of the humour didn’t age well. 33 years later, King Akeem (Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) aren’t keen to travel back to NYC, but since Akeem’s father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), is counting his final days, his only wish is for Akeem to go get the true heir to the throne of Zamunda. Something Akeem’s oldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) doesn’t necessarily agree with, as she’s trained her entire life to one day maybe walk into the footsteps of her father. Instead, the law forbids a woman to rule the country, and she’s destined to marry General Izzi’s (Wesley Snipes) son, in a plot to unify dynasties. Upon finding his long-lost song Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), the new addition to the Royal Family and his mother (played by Leslie Jones) join Akeem and Semmi in order to learn the customs of royal life, where things don’t go exactly as smoothly when both cultures and families clash.
There’s of course a few twists and turns that are reminiscent to the first film, and that’s where Coming 2 America relies on heavily. The throwback aspect is obviously something to please the fans, but there’s two lengthy scenes in which we get transported to ’88 to relive certain scenes, where one of them even adds some digitally rejuvenated Murphy and Hall to clear up some things we didn’t get to see in the original story. Aside from the throwbacks to Coming To America, we also get a handful of cameos (which I’ll let you experience for yourself) that just exude late ’80s energy.
After a very strong and often funny first act, the film goes back to Zamunda to focus on Lavelle’s training to become the new King. This is where the movie just sinks. The story doesn’t move forward, it just keeps on dragging, and it’s a shame to see Fowler rehashing the same tricks over and over again, because he’s a good actor after all. His story arc is just too similar to Murphy’s in Coming To America, this time basically “Coming To Zamunda”. This second act could’ve easily focused a bit more on Akeem’s three very different and interesting daughters, especially since Meeka becomes a focus in the third act. Unfortunately the very talented Layne barely gets to do anything exciting and is mostly wasted in the role.
Besides the stunning costumes, spectacular musical performances and rhythmic entrances by Snipes’ General Izzi and his army, who’s also one of the highlights of the movie, it’s Murphy and Hall’s prosthetically enhanced alter ego’s scattered throughout, and Leslie Jones stealing the spotlight each time she shows up on screen.
Wakanda-jokes and resemblances aside, Coming 2 America is still a fun ride, even with a few bumps down the track. It’s beating heart is mostly found in the female cast, even though they’re not fleshed out enough to be allowed to take center stage. At least Shari Headley (who reprises her role from the original) gets some decent amount of screentime as Queen of Zamunda.
COMING 2 AMERICA will be available on Amazon Prime Video, March 5
Review – ‘Coming 2 America’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Amazon Prime Video), March 3, 2021. Rating: PG-13. Running time: 110 min.
PRODUCTION: An Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video release of an Eddie Murphy Productions, Misher Films, New Republic Pictures, Paramount Pictures production. Producer: Kevin Misher. Executive producers: Bradley J. Fischer, Charisse M. Hewitt, Michelle Imperato, Brian Oliver.
CREW: Director: Craig Brewer. Screenplay: Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Kenya Barris. Story: Justin Kanew, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield (characters: Eddie Murphy). Cinematography: Joe ‘Jody’ Williams. Editing: David S. Clark, Billy Fox, Debra Neil-Fisher. Music: Jermaine Stegall.
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, KiKi Layne, Paul Bates, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Fowler.