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Film Review: Coming 2 America

12 March 21 words: Joanna Hoyes

Prince Akeem's long-awaited return is a messy and soulless nostalgia trip...

Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler
Running time: 110 minutes

It’s been over thirty years since Coming to America first hit the big screen with its hilarious gags, memorable characters and one of the best end-of-movie wedding scenes in rom-com history. Above all, though, for all its comedy and silliness, the movie had a heart. It was a genuinely moving story of a prince trying to find, not only love, but also trying to find himself. The trouble with this sequel is—they’ve taken the soul out of the story.

Coming 2 America begins 30 years on from the first film; Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is due to ascend the throne and become king of Zamunda. He has sired three strong and capable daughters however it is illegal for a woman to take the place of queen in the fictional African nation without a husband by her side. Conveniently, Akeem learns from his dying father that he has also produced an illegitimate son who he insists must succeed him when the time is right. Back to America, Akeem and his sidekick, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), go in order to find his long-lost son and heir to the throne.

The movie is less a sequel and more a chaotic spoof of a classic. Fans of the first film were certainly expecting a few throwbacks to the original, which we got with rehashed jokes and a few flashback scenes. Whilst these were amusing – particularly the scenes in the barber shop with Murphy and Hall’s alter egos – they were not enough to carry a feature length movie. 

It was heart-warming to see the entire cast back together - even the guy who washed lettuce in McDowell’s (Louie Anderson). The only member of the cast not to reprise her role of queen of Zamunda was Madge Sinclair who sadly passed away in 1995. Cameos by Morgan Freeman, Gladys Knight and hip-hop duo, Salt-N-Pepa were highlights but ones that were hurriedly thrown together in a bizarre fake funeral scene.

If you’re going to stick a self-aware quip in the script, make sure the movie’s good enough to back up the irony

The best addition to the ensemble cast is the mother of Akeem’s son, played by Leslie Jones. She has some genuinely laugh-out-loud lines and there’s a particularly funny moment where we see her and Queen Lisa getting hammered together and singing The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground. 

There’s a markedly meta moment where Akeem’s son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and his royal groomer, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha) lament the number of unnecessary movie sequels in American cinema. If you’re going to stick such a self-aware quip in the script, make sure the movie’s good enough to back up the irony.

Points must go to the costume department for the opulent African-inspired ensembles designed by the Oscar wining, Ruth E. Carter, who was responsible for the costumes in Marvel’s Black Panther (there’s a brief joke about Wakanda in C2A). 

Coming 2 America is clearly meant to be cheap and easy entertainment but if it had just taken itself a little more seriously instead of hurling messy nostalgia at its audience, it could have been a really impactful sequel.

Did you know? One of Prince Akeem’s daughters is played by his real-life daughter, Bella Murphy. The 19-year-old makes her screen debut alongside her father, who also produced the sequel.

Coming 2 America is available now on Prime Video

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