Coming 2 America: Better Than Expected, Less Than What I'd Hoped For
Have you ever gone to a concert of an aging band, hoping to hear them play their hits exactly as they sound in your memories?
It often doesn’t live up to expectations, as everyone is older and not quite as sharp as they once were, and they inevitably play a handful of songs from their new album that isn’t nearly as good as the old stuff and virtually nobody cares about.
That, in a nutshell, sums up ‘Coming 2 America’ … except rather than playing the hits with the little bit of new material, they just keep playing ‘Free Bird’ over and over and over.
Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy in ‘Coming 2 America,’ available now on Amazon Prime Video. (Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert. Courtesy of Amazon Studios.)
In the sequel to 1988’s ‘Coming to America,’ more than three decades have passed since Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his right-hand man, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), travelled to New York City to find the prince a wife. That adventure proved fruitful, as Akeem and Lisa (Shari Headley) are happily married with three daughters – Mika (KiKi Layne), Omma (Bella Murphy), and Tinashe (Akiley Love).
Following the death of his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), Akeem ascends to the throne of Zamunda. His rule, however, will be short-lived if General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, the militant leader of Zamunda’s neighbor, Nexdoria, has anything to say about it.
Izzi views Akeem as soft and coddled, and – per Zumundan law – with no sons, he has no heirs to the throne, despite Mika being groomed for the role since birth.
With others sharing the general’s opinion of Akeem, they decide to let him in on a secret that could save his life and the kingdom itself – he has a son in the Big Apple from his previous visit. With time not on their side, Akeem and Semmi head back to NYC to find his unknown son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), and bring him back to claim his birthright.
King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) meets his newly discovered son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) in ‘Coming 2 America.’ (Photo by Annette Brown. Courtesy of Amazon Studios.)
· The characters you came to know and love in the original film are back – in addition to those mentioned above, John Amos returns as Lisa’s father and the proprietor of McDowell’s restaurant, Cleo; Louie Anderson is back as Maurice, the bumbling McDowell’s employee; and several of the various characters played by Murphy and Hall also show up – and they all do it seamlessly.
· There are a lot of fun throwbacks jokes and moments that pay homage to the original film that fans will surely enjoy.
· The young cast members were fun and believable. It would have actually been nice to see their characters fleshed out a bit and more time devoted to them.
· It tackles the idea of being true to yourself and not conforming to other people’s norms simply to gain their approval.
· It promotes the idea that progress, even if it goes against generations of rule and tradition, is not only good, but necessary.
· While the callbacks to ’88 are fun, there’s just too many of them. By the midpoint, you realize that there’s simply not much there in terms of new ideas, story, jokes, or heartfelt moments, and it’s just a slightly tweaked rehash of the original.
· Once you realize that, the jokes stop being all that funny and the heartfelt moments (they’re minimal) feel less genuine.
· The new characters – aside from Akeem’s children and General Izzi – serve almost no purpose in progressing the story or other characters. Actors like Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan – both of whom I’m a fan of – are there to presumably deliver comedic relief, but they’re given very little to deliver.
· There’s a bunch of celebrity cameos that feel forced and do even less to progress the story than the new characters.
The royal daughters of Zamunda – Mika (KiKi Layne), Omma (Bella Murphy), and Tinashe (Akiley Love) – in ‘Coming 2 America.’ (Courtesy of Amazon Studios.)
It’s obvious that prior to becoming a theatrical casualty of Covid-19, ‘Coming 2 America’ was meant to be a summer comedy blockbuster, feeding into people’s love of nostalgia and comfortability, while forgoing the quality and originality of its predecessor. And that’s a shame, because Murphy is one of the greatest comedians of my lifetime and he has undeniable on-screen chemistry with Hall – they deserved better.
Fortunately, my expectations for reboots and decades-later sequels are very low, due to being burned by a few too many over the years. Because of that, despite being rather pedestrian, I wasn’t greatly disappointed.
‘Coming 2 America’ isn’t nearly as good as we wanted and deserved, but it’s not as bad as it could’ve been.
★★ of ★★★★★