Coming 2 America Review
Published on March 19, 2021
Rating 2.5 /5
Eddie Murphy’s return to his notable 1980s comedy feels more like a reunion than a profound sequel. His familiar crop of characters get all dressed up in their best Zamunda attire and it feels as though the fictional African kingdom hasn’t changed. It’s a mighty faithful revival of such a world. But Coming 2 America is less a case of getting all dressed up with nowhere to go and having too many directions to split.
Prince-turned-King Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is trying to come to terms with his new title after the passing of his father, the previous King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones). His primary concern is keeping his kingdom safe from the imposing country of Nexdoria, led by the cackling General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). The only way to do so is to make sure a prince is present. And since Akeem has only birthed daughters with his Queen Lisa Joffer (Shari Headley), he finds himself perplexed at what to do. He could subvert the law and make his determined first-daughter of Princess Meeka Joffer (KiKi Layne) the heir to the throne. You may even have a whole movie about her trying to prove she is worthy. But that’s apparently not enough to fit the fish-out-of-water formula that made the previous film so hilarious.
The story quickly shifts focus away from Meeka and onto the unlikely heir candidate of Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). Akeem’s eccentric best friend and aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) informs Akeem that they had a sexual fling while in Queens that apparently resulted in the birth of a son. And so Akeem and Semmi make their travels back to Queens to find the son they left behind. But what starts as a return to roots quickly whisks away Lavelle and his mother (Leslie Jones) to Zamunda where the tale of royalty continues to find gags around the kingdom.
This is a film that finds far more fun in its many vignettes than any of its conflicting plotlines and characters. To a degree, this was true of the original film, finding oddball skits of eccentric preachers, Jheri curl spray ads, McDonald’s knock-offs, and a band called Sexual Chocolate. And yet the film still had its central focus of Akeem seeking an independent woman always seemed to be the driving force. With its sequel, however, there’s just too much going on to be fully invested in the outcomes.
We know that Meeka is more than an accomplished princess to serve the throne but we hardly get enough time with her. We know that Akeem and Lisa will have squabbles because of this new development in Akeem having a son but this aspect isn’t explored past the expected arguments. We know that Izzi presents a threat to Zamunda but he seems to be mostly talk and swagger, easily persuaded by a skirmish or two.
That being said, for as sloppy as the narrative becomes at times, I must admit that many of the asides and characters still haven’t lost their comical touch. The highlight of the four old men who occupy a barbershop remains a comedy goldmine of fast-paced banter and commentary. The lovable businessman of Cleo McDowell (John Amos) is still promoting his restaurant of McDowell’s, stressing how his McFlubby is far different from the McFlurry.
Even the new supporting players hold their own fairly well. Leslie Jones can still eat scenes with a spoon the way she has vibrant and explosive reactions to everything in Zamunda. Trevor Noah fits the goofy appeal of Zamunda’s broadcast news host. And Morgan Freeman enters the picture to deliver a profound speech about how when King Jaffe Joffer dies, all sex is really going to suck.
But doesn’t this is all seem like a bit much? This film is not only trying to bring just about every character from the first film into play (including the bride who Akeem initially rejected) while also injecting new skits and characters as well. It all becomes so much to maintain that when Lavelle goes through his trials to become a prince, there’s not as much tension in his quest to retrieve lion whiskers. Though I must admit there are some smirks to be had for the ritual/prank involving foreskin.
Coming 2 America has so many funny bits on their own that it’s a bit sad the whole isn’t as impressive. There’s a whole story buried here about women trying to take control of a kingdom adhering to a decaying system that is unfortunately given far less air than Lavelle learning the troubles that come with being a prince. The film has so little time to let any of its many arcs playout with all the distractions of dance numbers and stand-alone jokes.
One of the most frustrating aspects is that such a picture has the audacity to criticize the current landscapes of movies as being little more than superhero films and remakes, harping on how little originality is left in cinema. I understand that it’s meant to be a meta-gag but it really falls flat when presented in a remake that is itself doing little more than offering a retread, funny as it may be at times.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.