Thirty years after the events of John Landis’s Coming to America, Eddie Murphy returns as Prince Akeem Joffer. Everything is peacefulness and light except that Akeem’s father is dying and there is no male heir for the kingdom. Since none of his over-qualified daughters can be allowed to ascend to the throne, Akeem must face his dying father, a grumpy James Earl Jones. However, it turns out that unbeknownst to Akeem, he did unknowingly sire an heir in America and he must return to the USA to retrieve the boy. With Zamunda‘s militaristic neighbour country Nexdoria threatening to invade, it’s imperative that Akeem succeed – but will he? Well, in Coming To America‘s fondly over-top sequel, that part is never really much in doubt.
Coming 2 America is the right kind of fan service...
You see, clearly knowing its (now) 40-50-year-old audience, Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer has found a subtle touch between revision and reverie for Coming 2 America. Whilst avoiding the baton-passing antics of director Tim Story‘s woeful Shaft reboot, Brewer and Murphy have managed to find a lot of scope for new material whilst also affectionately mining the past at the same time. Sexism and the patriarchy find themselves squarely in their crosshairs and yet it is never knowingly done to ever feel laboured. Gleefully relishing that in announcing to Jermaine Fowler’s Lavelle Junson that he is “a potential bastard son” to a lavish empire, the offence and compliment travel hand in hand and as such the jokes are well-meant and pointed throughout. With a simplistic plot that intentionally runs on rails, the real gift that Coming 2 America affords its cast is the ability to overact knowingly.
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall get to jump into their fat suits, SNL’s Leslie Jones is a tramp with more amp than this fuse board was ever meant to handle and John Amos is again thumbing through the McDonald’s employee manual. However, the real coup de grace is Wesley Snipes as General Izzi, the warlike leader of Nexdoria. Part P-Diddy Armin and part mad strutting-cockerel, he devours every treasure that the script lays before him with a maniacal wink. So, with a script that even allows space for Eddie Murphy’s trademark deadpan glance-to-camera, you’ll see there’s still plenty of the old and new for you to enjoy.
By its end, Coming 2 America is thankfully never that “sequel that nobody asked for”. By avoiding the trap of over-expectation to a fondly-remembered classic, this is clearly not intended to be a return to form for Murphy nor spawn a dozen sequels off the back of its presumed success. Instead, it’s clear that the filmmakers knew what they had in their hands right from the off and wisely chose not to crush this rose before scattering it ahead of its cast.
Decked out with a lavish eye for costume and scenery, Coming 2 America is the right kind of fan service and one that doesn’t lack for either budget or aesthetic nourishment. So, dial-in the pizza. Plump up the couch and set your attention to vibrate because the gentle weekend kick-off movie you’ve been waiting for is now on Amazon.
As a side note, the blooper reel in the credits is worth hanging around for, however, the real treat is John Legend’s final send-off at the piano. Prepare to be amazed even after you’ve been entertained.0