As the new ruler of Zamunda, King Akeem learns of a son he fathered during his adventures in Queens. With the kingdom needing a true heir to the throne, he and his right hand man Semmi go back to America in search of the next would-be King. Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, and many more, Coming 2 America is a welcome return to the 1988 classic that feels like a loving tribute. Imperfect? Certainly. But entertaining nonetheless.
It’s been 33 years since Coming to America first introduced us to the fictional country of Zamunda, its prince, and a whole slew of other hilarious characters. Created by Murphy, with a screenplay by David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein, the film was a box office success upon release but above all, transcended over the years to become a comedy classic that is nothing short of iconic.
Coming to America features Murphy and Hall at their finest, the two on quadruple duty playing several characters throughout. It was actually the first we’d see of Murphy playing these multiple personas with the help of special effects makeup; a gag he’d become known for.
The film followed Prince Akeem (Murphy) who upon his 21st birthday, is introduced to his future wife in an arrangement by his parents, played by James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair. Unhappy with the idea of marrying for anything other than love, he and his trusted pal Semmi (Hall) head off to Queens, New York to find someone who he can truly connect with.
Returning for the sequel are original writing duo Blaustein and Sheffield, with the addition of Kenya Barris, creator of the hit series Black-ish. With those three and director Craig Brewer, Coming 2 America delivers a lot of the same great humor from the original, following a similar structure. Nothing feels recycled though, instead serving as a great homage to some memorable moments and lines.
Immediately we see callbacks to the ’88 film, both situational and in dialogue. It would be easy to have these references serve as a crutch for the story, but these inclusions felt organic. It’s definitely worth refreshing your memory by watching the first film, so you don’t miss a single nod; like some classic Soul Glo. I particularly loved seeing Akeem and Semmi’s club night revisited from the original, with some amazing de-aging techniques.
You can even recognize some nods to the original film in the costume design, which are so fun to spot. You’ll see characters either in full recreations of previous outfits or accessories, or take subtle inspiration from something in the first film. Those fun easter eggs aside, the costumes overall are stunning pieces of work. Which is all thanks to Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-winning designer behind Black Panther.
It blends the old and new well, in terms of story, jokes, and characters. We get almost every character returning, which was really important, in my opinion, to have a successful sequel. But I also really liked all the new roles, which included Fowler, who plays Akeem’s son, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, and Wesley Snipes—the film is really stacked. There are even some fun cameos throughout that were unexpected and kept things extra exciting.
There are some relevant jokes to current times, a great bit highlighting micro-aggressions towards black men, and the gentrification of Queens. And I really enjoyed the slight lean towards female empowerment that was nicely balanced within the story. It doesn’t go overboard with any of this, but just allows the jokes to root itself in the present with some fresh concepts.
The film isn’t without a few faults. It’s not as much of a fun fish-out-of-water story as the first. A lot of the humor in that was built from Akeem’s aloof quirks and naivety, which he’s lost a bit in this film. And with the son being fairly suave and quite receptive to this new land, we’re missing that same level of natural comedy. I also found the second act to feel a little drawn out and wasn’t a fan of the conflict that’s introduced. It’s something that’s been done many times before and is rather cliche at this point. But it gets back to center and ends things in the best way it could (🍫).
Nothing could ever capture the same spark as the first film, and you’ll do yourself a disservice by expecting it to. What Coming 2 America offers is effortless nostalgia and some charming moments. Murphy and Hall are dynamite once again, so much that I wish it had even more of just those two. I watched it with a smile on my face the majority of the time and that to me, is a worthy sequel.
Coming 2 America is available on Amazon Prime this Friday!