It’s been 33 years, but in the world of blockbuster comedy a lot has both changed and stayed the same. The exciting, sumptuous and contradictory Coming 2 America tells this story in several ways; this is an elegant suite that honors and entertains in some ways, but is sadly misguided in others.
Describing the successes and shortcomings of this twisted ’80s sequel in 2021 is difficult, and the convoluted plot has a lot to juggle with it. Even when the characters are far from rave about the 1988 John Landis classic, the end payoff does come together and is entertaining enough to forgive the chaos.
Located thirty years after Akeem (Eddie murphy) and Lisa (Shari Headley) came to Zamunda after their whirlwind romance in Queens. But when Semmi (Arsène room) tells Akeem that he has a son who is the rightful heir to Zamunda’s throne, they take him to Africa where a new family dynamic will determine the fate of both countries.
What follows is a mishmash of family drifts in Zamunda, mostly following Lavelle (Jermaine fowler) as he prepares to be a prince. But how does it all fit together? This is the problem for the director Craig brewer, which is very different in tone from the original Landis.
Most of the film takes place in Zamunda, revolving around the fictional state of the country instead of what takes place in Queens. Coming 2 America doesn’t make much sense as a title since the plot focuses more on “Going 2 Zamunda”.
This inconsistency is the story of the big budget comedies Eddie Murphy has directed throughout his career. I have no problem with the PG sequel being more tame than the R-rated original – but I do have an issue with the genre being changed from the romantic comedy adventure of the original. instead of being a generic blended family comedy.
Murphy is still a strong star, and he has a good relationship with director Brewer (they worked together on 2019’s Dolemite is my name) and he runs Arsenio Hall well (in its many parts). The biggest change in the sequel is having a much faster pace.
Some scenes are very effective, such as Lavelle hooking up with her older stepsister as they face a bravery test together. But others, like Akeem teaching Lavelle how to walk “princely”, seem forced into the way the actors are forced to act.
The problem lies with the storyline, which often means fine with a lot of cleverly interconnected details, but the script is also overloaded. Many traits of Akeem, Semmi, and Lisa (the main characters in the first film) are betrayed and changed here in the sequel.
Lavelle’s journey ultimately mirrors that of Akeem when he must choose his love, but reproducing this main plot point was the cardinal sin of The hangover part 2, another big-budget sequel that exploited the storyline’s familiarity with being set in a different country.
As Lavelle learns “The Legend of Prince Akeem from Prince Akeem” (the plot of the first film), he learns how Akeem’s character has been warped in the same way audiences learn. The success and spirit of the first film is due to the fact that young Akeem is progressive in the way he wants the country to be run.
So why is today’s Akeem so eager to honor Zamunda’s rigidity in the sequel after successfully changing the law in the first film? “Prince Akeem may have forgotten his story,” explains commoner Mirembe. “But the people of Zamunda did not.”
Likewise, most audiences wishing to see Coming 2 America will remember the original and know that if the style is the same, the original spirit is divided.
Yet the positivity of the cast of the ensemble ultimately coming together (or perhaps, coming 2gether?) is enough to entertain despite the confusion in the middle of the plot. If you’re looking for a glitzy way to spend an evening, this is one thing King Eddie Murphy and his friends can still pull off.
Coming 2 America
6 out of 10
PG, 1h49. Epic comedy.
Directed by Craig Brewer.
With Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Leslie Jones, Kiki Layne, Nomzamo Mbatha, Tracy Morgan and Wesley Snipes.
Now streaming on Amazon for subscribers.