Thirty years ago Eddie Muprhy’s Prince Akeem graced our screens in 1998’s blockbuster comedy Coming to America. Directed by John Landis, the original film followed Murphy’s Prince Akeem of the fictional kingdom of Zamunda traveling to New York City on a mission to find a bride. The film was a massive success, showcasing a fabulous cast of characters which worked perfectly together. . Coming to America also represented Eddie Murphy at his peak—Murphy’s trademark clever writing and bombastic style of comedy made him the talk of the town during the mid to late eighties.
However, the world has changed a lot since Coming To America’s success which has led to many people having questions leading into this long-awaited sequel; comedy isn’t as rambunctious as it was during the eighties so can the film adapt?; will Eddie Murphy’s lack of current star power hurt the film?; and most importantly the question to ask with every sequel ‘Is it any good?’
Coming 2 America unfortunately fails to hit the mark. I must say through the majority of the runtime a massive smile appeared across my face, as I couldn’t help control my joy at seeing some on my favourite characters back on screen. However, for those who haven’t seen the original this sequel may fall flat. The film does have a few good jokes, I don’t think the long awaited sequel provides enough substance to engage new viewers; Coming 2 America nostalgia factor is both its best and worst feature.
Co-Written by Kenya Barris (Girls Trip) and directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Dolemite Is My Name), Coming 2 America reverses the first film’s fish out of water plot with Murphy’s Prince Akeem and sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) briefly returning to Queens to take Akeem’s secret son Lavelle (Jermaine Flower) back to Zamunda to save the crown.
The plot like most fish out of water stories isn’t spectacular and has been done many a time. Despite however unspectacular the plot, it works well with the film as it provides both what people want to see while still bringing something different to the table. In answer to the question if the story succeeds in recapturing the laughs of the original, the answer is unfortunately no. The film does come across quite lazy, relying too much on nostalgia and the charisma of its cast.
Coming 2 America does have some fantastic moments, in particular while in the fictional land of Zamunda. A fantastic sequence of celebration provides a great spectacle. Full of vibrancy, the scene is a total burst of colour and immediately captures the attention of the viewer. The film must also be credited for making the country feel real, creating a pleasant environment which the viewers want to return too. This contrasts greatly to the usually gritty streets of Queens from the original.
However, like the first film, the characters are the most important factor. In the first it was Eddie Murphy’s Akeem which was the heart of the film, however he takes a back seat in the film with his action coming across as a man trying to recapture what he once had. Murphy is a fantastic actor, however his talents aren’t showcased throughout the film and that is a real shame. Coming 2 America instead focuses on Jermaine Fowler’s Lavelle, who despite embodying a more sweet-natured and lackadaisical attitude still manages to bring a fantastic energy to the film. He’s an extremely likeable character who slots in nicely with the existing cast, but despite the fantastic performance from Jermaine Fowler his character can’t live up to the expectation left by Eddie Murphy.
Coming 2 America isn’t going to knock your socks off but is a perfect lazy sunday afternoon film, it doesn’t require in-depth analysis but just someone is willing to sit down and enjoy it. However, as a sequel to such a great film it falls flat. It cannot hit the heights of the original yet tries so hard to. I would have loved to see a different take on these characters as both the director and writer are both extremely talented. Overall, the film is slightly disappointing but I do enjoy it, even if it is the nostalgia of old bringing me joy.
Words by Paul Dawson
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