“Coming 2 America”- Movie Review
So here we are. Another week, another year, another sequel film that’s thirty years overdue. A continuation of the 1988 John Landis hit, Coming to America has been desired for for a long time. Now that it’s here, will it live up to expectations, or will it crash and burn like many other long-awaited comedy sequels?
Thirty years have passed since the events of the first film, and all seems well for Prince Akeem (played once again by Eddie Murphy). He and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have been blessed with three daughters, the eldest of whom is eager to take up the throne one day, and the African kingdom of Zamunda is at peace. Or so you thought. Things go awry with the appearance of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the dictator of the neighboring nation of Nexdoria. The general pressures Akeem to allow his dopey son to marry Akeem’s oldest daughter, thus securing a merger of the two nations. Unsurprisingly, Akeem isn’t too keen on the idea. What does come as a surprise is the discovery of illegitimate son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), who was conceived while Akeem was in America. Fuelled by a determination to not let his nation fall into the wrong hands, Akeem decides to bring Lavelle and his mother (played by Leslie Jones) to Africa, and groom him to become Zamunda’s next ruler.
I am a fan of 1988’s Coming to America, but I’d been lying if I said I was a huge fan. Again, it’s a case of me being weird about comedies. That’s not to say I didn’t find it funny. I did find it funny. Though I enjoyed it less as a laugh-out-loud comedy and more of a sweet romance, believe it or not. The main reason the film worked so well was Eddie Murphy’s humorous and endearingly naive performance as Akeem. Given that this follow-up on the character takes place at least three whole decades after its predecessor, you can’t help but wonder, can Murphy pull it off yet again? The short answer is yes, yes he can. Yes to Murphy’s charm and immediate likeability. Yes to his natural comedic sensibilities. And it’s not just him who succeeds. Arsenio Hall is also entertaining, as is Leslie Jones and Wesley Snipes. These four represent the film’s biggest strengths. The narrative surrounding them, however, is weighed down by its many weaknesses.
These flaws are mainly found in the script and in the film’s visual aesthetic. The costuming and art direction are admittedly fantastic, though the cinematography is way too CGI-heavy at times. The scenes in Zamunda where the characters are supposed to be outside the palace has that too-smooth, polished sheen that just screams, “hey, we’re not actually on set, we’re in front of a green screen”. It makes those moments feel fake, thus uninteresting. Thankfully, these portions appear occasionally, so not everything about the movie has that tinge of fakeness.
The script also suffers from inconsistent characterization and predictable plot beats. Take the character of Lavelle, for example. Lavelle is introduced as someone who hasn’t had much in life. What he does have is a close relationship with his mother and the desire for an opportunity to prove himself and his worth. Seems like prime meat for a compelling arc with him stepping into his princely shoes, right? Well, in a strange move, the filmmakers decided to take an opposite route. The minute Lavelle steps foot in Zamunda, his character does a total 180. Suddenly, he hasn’t a care in the world. He’s totally fine with being pampered and indulging in the luxuries of royalty, and rarely do you ever get the impression that he’s taking his newfound responsibilities seriously. It’s as if he morphed into a completely different character, and he got annoying after a while.
Coming 2 America is the kind of movie I have to review in two aspects. First as a movie. Second, as a sequel. As an individual film, it’s pretty meh. It has a few chuckle-out-loud moments, cool costumes, nice set design, and yet another endearing performance by Eddie Murphy. As a sequel, it’s kind of lame. The focus of the narrative is on less than desirable supporting characters and a plot that’s needlessly predictable. If you’re a fan of the original 1988 film, don’t go into this thinking you’re getting gold, or silver even. Expect bronze. Expect a mildly entertaining movie that isn’t nearly as good as its successor, yet isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. All in all, the film fits snuggly in where it should have been all along- straight to streaming.