Coming 2 America
Written by Eddie Murphy, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Justin Kanew and Kenya Barris
Directed by Craig Brewer
Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Teyana Taylor and Paul Bates
The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son.
First things first, as a fan of Eddie Murphy and the original Coming to America, I sincerely wanted to like this film. I’ve been following Eddie’s return to the screen and (hopefully) the stage and has been increasingly excited about every move he’s made since the hilarious Dolemite Is my Name and his triumphant return to Saturday Night Live. That being said, I had high hopes going into the film considering its stellar cast and characters that were both funny and endearing.
Unfortunately, the film lacks any of the charm of the original and proceeds to work way too hard to try to regain it by doubling and tripling down on nostalgia for the first film through flashbacks and other means. Akeem (Murphy) is set to become the new king of Zamunda and his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) informs him that he has an illigitemate son in America that needs to be groomed to take the throne before the forces of Nexdoria (insert eye roll) led by the ruthless General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) attacks. Akeem has three daughters who have been training their entire lives alongside their father, but the country requires a male heir and Akeem must travel back to America to retrieve his son and prepare him for his destiny.
The plot itself is relatively simple, but had the production not played it safe, there were opportunities to make something special out of it. Jermaine Fowler’s Lavelle could have had a hilarious fish out water adventure in Zamunda, but nothing really happens to him and the trials he faces to be made the prince are lacking. The subplot to the film is Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (Kiki Layne) dealing with the fact that she is more than capable of leading the country, but the law prevents her from doing so. What could have been a poignant and engaging plot point is pushed to the background (along with anything have to do with the daughters) in favor of showcasing Fowler’s pratfalls and way too fast romance with his barber Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha).
The biggest disappointment I found was that I couldn’t find anything to laugh at in this film. Even the return of Murphy and Hall’s multiple characters from the first film including the barbers, the preacher and Randy Watson could only illicit nostalgia based smiles and nothing more. Akeem and Semmi were designed to be the straight men in the first film and the other characters they played gave them the opportunity to flex their comedic chops. This film attempted the opposite and failed.
Coming 2 America is the definition of style over substance. The film looks great even with some questionable CGI moments. Unfortunately, it tries too hard to appeal to too many people, loses momentum quickly and relies too heavily on nostalgia for the original instead of story. The movie’s biggest sin is that it sets up a conflict that not only could have been resolved in the first twenty minutes of the movie, but its resolution was so obvious that everything else felt like a waste of time.