Coming 2 America: Amazon Film Review

Coming 2 America

For many people, Eddie Murphy’s 1988 movie Coming to America is a classic that they love, have seen many times, and it holds some sort of nostalgic value for them, but that’s not the case for me as I watched it for the first time last year for the sole purpose of being ready for this sequel. I found it entertaining but nothing particularly special, which is pretty much how I feel about Coming 2 America.

The action this time primarily takes place in the fictional African nation of Zamunda where newly-crowned King Akeem Joffer (Murphy) learns that he has an illegitimate son living in Queens, so he and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) once again go to New York to meet Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and bring him back to Zamunda, with his mum Mary (Leslie Jones) in tow, to become a prince and his heir, even though Akeem’s daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) – the eldest of three daughters – has spent her whole life preparing to rule the country one day.

Coming to America is very much a product of its time and while it hasn’t aged too badly, I assume it was considered funnier in its day than when I first watched it in 2020, but even still, I found that funnier than this sequel. It’s entertaining and amusing to watch but I really wanted more laugh-out-loud moments (there were a few but not enough). Director Craig Brewer stays loyal to the original so fans will be pleased to know it’s not wildly different. He honours its predecessor with the same feel and tone, a familiar storyline, and the returning actors and characters, all while adding in some current humour and a feminist angle to make it feel more modern, but I did miss the fish-out-of-water hilarity of the original (although they try to redo it with Lavelle in Zamunda, it doesn’t have the same effect).

I also didn’t think the story was really worth the 33-year wait. I thought it had taken that long because they were waiting for an awesome story but this is pretty flimsy as it’s basically a launchpad for all the other goings-on. I like that they used convincing facial CGI to do some retcon on the original story but the explanation of how Lavelle came to exist was a bit questionable and dodgy, to put it mildly. I wish I could say the same for the animal CGI in Zamunda!! I’m also glad Brewer found a way to bring the barbershop crew – mostly made up of Murphy and Hall in prosthetics – back. They’re my favourites! Murphy and Hall play four characters each, and while I like their barbershop characters, I found witch doctor Baba (Hall) and Sexual Chocolate singer Randy Watson (Murphy) a bit icky.

It was nice to see Murphy and Hall back in their beloved roles but I felt they were mostly reactive characters this time rather than the ones driving the comedy. There are more familiar faces such as Shari Headley as Akeem’s wife Lisa and James Earl Jones as Akeem’s father, while there were some fantastic new additions too, with standouts being Wesley Snipes as General Izzi (he has great swagger and style), Teyana Taylor as his daughter and Lavelle’s potential wife (she has a good dance introduction), and the MVP: Layne as Meeka. Despite being so capable and the best person for the job, she keeps being overlooked by her father due to tradition, and I connected with that. I also don’t want to give away any spoilers but there are some great cameos in this so keep your eyes peeled. The costumes and music are also incredible.

I think a person’s reaction to this sequel will be very dependent on how much they loved the first. If you’re a big fan, I feel like you’ll be satisfied as it ticks all the boxes, doesn’t stray too far away from its original territory, and the nostalgia factor will carry it, despite all the hype and expectation. However, if you’re like me and thought it was simply a fine movie, then this sequel doesn’t do enough to change minds. Coming 2 America will work for people who are already fans, but I can’t imagine it converting anybody else.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 5th March

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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