Coming 2 America (Film Review)

Director: Craig Brewer

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Nomzamo Mbatha, Wesley Snipes, Teyana Taylor, Tracy Morgan

The discovery of a long-lost son forces Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) to swap his African homeland Zamunda for New York in search of his estranged heir Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). But will the kid from Queens make the grade as a royal and see off a threat to the monarchy?

Time has been kind to Coming To America. From a commercially popular but critically divisive hit in 1988, the Eddie Murphy vehicle, bearing a ground-breaking all-Black cast, has developed a second wind, becoming a cultural touchstone in everything from hip hop lyrics — crowd-pleasing line “The royal penis is clean, your highness” features in Nas’ remix of Snoop Dogg’s ‘That’s That’— to Jay-Z and Beyoncé cosplaying as Murphy’s Prince Akeem and Madge Sinclair’s Queen Aoleon. Factor in the current yen for ’80s nostalgia and a belated sequel seems like a no-brainer. The result, a Prime Video pick-up from Paramount, falls short of its predecessor but offers enough good-natured laughs and spirit to make the journey worthwhile.

If John Landis’ original was by design a coming-of-age journey, its sequel starts by being invested in telling the story of fatherhood. Prince Akeem is no longer a pampered aristocrat, but a father to three strong daughters. With his father King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) on his death bed, Akeem’s kingdom comes under threat from neighbouring despot General Izzi (an enjoyably OTT Wesley Snipes) who wants his son to wed Akeem’s oldest daughter, Meeka (Kiki Layne) in a marriage of political convenience. Yet Witch Doctor Baba (Arsenio Hall) reveals Akeem has an illegitimate son in Queens, so the newly crowned king once again heads to New York with trusted assistant Semmi (Hall again) to track down the rightful heir to the throne.

It’s a colourful, likeable re-spinning, replete with big dance sequences

It’s at this point that Coming 2 America starts to lean into The Force Awakens/Bill & Ted Face The Music playbook by becoming a sequel that retreads the original. Director Craig Brewer (the Footloose reboot) has previous when it comes to indulging in fan service, so we return to the barbershop where Akeem lost his royal ponytail, go out clubbing with Akeem and Semmi (cue some dodgy Irishman-esque age reversals), revisit funk band Sexual Chocolate, and get a potted history of the first flick via some old clips. When Akeem tracks down his long-lost son, ticket tout Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), things become a bit King Ralph as Lavelle, along with mom Mary (Leslie Jones) and Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan), is thrown out of his element into the grandeur of Zamunda and has to learn the royal ropes.

It’s a colourful, likeable re-spinning, replete with big dance sequences (one bizarrely to Prince’s 1991 banger ‘Gett Off’), a string of cameos, obvious messaging (walk your own path, kids) and gentle skewering of the Black experience, from gentrification to eschewing ideas around primitivism. Story-wise, there’s a lot going on here and the downside is that Murphy often gets sidelined in his own movie — also, while the character no longer has the winning innocence and naivety of a younger man, it never really finds new dimensions to replace these qualities. Still, Fowler scores as the man who would be prince, etching a heartfelt relationship with Teyana Taylor’s royal groomer Bopoto. At one point, talking about movie sequels, they question, “If something is good, why ruin it?” It’s a meta, bold and possibly foolhardy nod, but Coming 2 America just about gets away with it.

If it’s missing the charm and Murphy’s magnetism from the first film, Coming 2 America delivers a broad, serviceable return to Zamunda.

2.5 Out Of 5 Barz

What Did You Think Of Coming 2 America? Did It Live Up To Your Expectations? Do You Even Think That The Film Original Film Needed A Sequel?

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