Coming 2 America
In 1988, Eddie Murphy made Coming to America. It was the really funny story of a sheltered African prince who traveled to Queens, New York and pretended to be poor so he could find a woman who loved him for himself. It holds up today as one of Murphy’s most beloved movies. A sequel didn’t seem necessary, let alone a sequel that has come 33 years later. Nonetheless, here is Coming 2 America (streaming on Amazon Prime). The filmmakers obviously learned an important thing from the original: people liked it! So, they decided to do it again. It repeats the basic story (with a slight twist), including a lot of the same gags. If you liked Coming to America, there is probably going to be some stuff in Coming 2 America that will make you smile. However, it pales badly in comparison to its predecessor and never makes the second trip to Zamunda worth taking.
The movie begins thirty years later, with the King near death. About to take over as ruler, and fearing attack from a neighboring country, Prince Akeem learns that he fathered a son during his visit to Queens. Since he has three daughters, and only a man can rule Zamunda, he decides to return to New York to bring back his heir.
The first entry in the series was about naïve Akeem adjusting to the culture of Queens and trying to win the heart of down-to-Earth Lisa. This one is about his illegitimate son, Lavelle, adjusting to the culture of Zamunda and struggling with the idea of an arranged marriage to the niece of the woman Akeem ran away from an arranged marriage to thirty years ago. It is the same plot in reverse, but with little of the humor and none of the emotional investment. Jermaine Fowler, as Lavelle, is not as charming as Eddie Murphy. He has no chemistry with his love interest, unlike Murphy and Shari Headley, whose Lisa has a smaller role this time. Every plot turn, and the majority of the jokes, are lesser imitations of Akeem’s initial adventure.
In addition to being a redundant follow-up, the screenplay also includes a dated (as well as uncomfortable) date-rape joke, cameos intended to be funny merely because they exist and a very unconvincing subplot about Akeem’s eldest daughter trying to find her place. It wasn’t unconvincing because I couldn’t believe where she ended up; it was unconvincing because the screenplay doesn’t commit to it. It felt like a token kept in the background so as not to interfere with Lavelle’s boring journey.
The few occasions when Coming 2 America comes alive is when it revisits characters from the first movie. Murphy and Arsenio Hall, as his faithful servant, Semmi, don’t have as much time together here. Though they still get laughs in some of their other roles as the inhabitants of a barber shop. This is a rare case where they get to tell different jokes and it’s still funny. John Amos, returning as Lisa’s father, the owner of the restaurant McDowell’s (which is totally not a rip-off of McDonald’s), does the familiar bit, but also has an amusing scene with Akeem. This stuff may not recapture the charm of the original, yet it does replicate it decently enough. Unfortunately, everything new lacks the humor, without the benefit of nostalgia to carry it along.
Leslie Jones as Lavelle’s Mom and Tracy Morgan as his Uncle/mentor play caricatures that fail to take advantage of the actors’ talents. Wesley Snipes, playing a power-hungry general, at least has fun with his dull role, making the most out of every scene he has. That is as good as the new material gets.
My expectations for a thirty-years-later sequel to a really good movie is it will be an uncreative retread that serves to remind viewers of how much more enjoyable the first one was. That is a pretty apt description of Coming 2 America.
1¾ out of 5 Cast:
Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem
Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle Junson
KiKi Layne as Meeka
Shari Headley as Lisa
Arsenio Hall as Semmi
Leslie Jones as Mary Junson
Tracy Morgan as Uncle Reem
Wesley Snipes as General Izzi
John Amos as Cleo McDowell
James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer
Directed by Craig Brewer
Screenplay by Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Kenya Barris