Coming 2 America (2021)
"Coming 2 America" stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Shari Headley, John Amos, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, and James Earl Jones. Released on Amazon Prime on March 5, 2021, the film has Akeem Joffer traveling to America once again, but this time, to search for his son.
The film was directed by Craig Brewer, who also directed films such as "The Poor & Hungry", "Hustle & Flow", "Black Snake Moan", and "Dolemite Is My Name". It is a sequel to the 1988 comedy, "Coming to America". After more than 30 long years, the prince has finally returned. "Coming to America" is one of the comedies that fully define Eddie Murphy's career as one of the funniest and endearing comedians in Hollywood. While it didn't become a huge critical darling when it was first released in 1988, it did become a cult following for fans of the comedian as the years went by. In today's world, when a film becomes a cult classic, a follow-up is soon to follow, and that comedy classic just happened to be one of them. Even though I haven't watched "Coming to America" that much, I did remember liking it because of Eddie Murphy's impressive ability to portray multiple characters in a single film. This gave me the perfect excuse to check out its sequel. Well, that and the fact that I have enjoyed some of Murphy's works growing up. Was it a worthy successor, or was it another long-awaited sequel that should be dethroned immediately? Let's find out.
The film once again follows Akeem Joffer (Murphy), the prince of Zamunda who is happily living his new life with his wife Lisa (Headley) and their three daughters Meeka (KiKi Layne), Tinashe (Akiley Love), and Omma (Bella Murphy). He received word from his ailing father, King Jaffe (Jones), that he has unexpectedly birthed a son during his first adventure in Queens, New York. With the law stating that only a male successor can inherit the throne, Akeem and his aide Semmi (Hall) must journey to New York to find his son, bring him to Zamunda, and train him to become a prince. He must complete his mission while also taking on the responsibilities of being the new king of Zamunda. Let me start things off by looking at the film's title. They literally replaced the word "to" with the number 2 in "Coming to America" and expected me to go along with it. I'm sorry, but this is both lazy and confusing, in my opinion. I mean, imagine someone walking up to you and mentions "Coming to America". Chances are you'll wind up being puzzled as to which "Coming to America" they're talking about: the one with the "to" or the one with the "2". Just call it "Coming to America: Part 2" or something. Any sequel title will do besides what we got now. Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about the film. Long-awaited sequels to memorable films from the past have been nothing but a gamble recently, especially in the comedy genre. Even though it felt nice to revisit our favorite characters, the follow-ups often fell short of their predecessors in terms of the execution and the humor. "Coming 2 America" is sadly one of those follow-ups. Admittedly, I did enjoy seeing Eddie Murphy's charming self again as he reprised his roles as some of the memorable characters he has created: Akeem, Clarence the barber, Saul the barbershop customer, and even soul singer Randy Watson. However, his performance (or performances) can only take the sequel so far. While "Coming to America" served as a fish-out-of-water story about a prince from Zamunda finding true love in America, "Coming 2 America" shortened Akeem's time in America in favor of a Zamunda story about the importance of family, the importance of being the best person one can be, and of course, finding true love. It was a pleasant change of pace to see Zamunda in the spotlight, which could be largely due to the success of "Black Panther" and the fictional land of Wakanda. However, it paid the price by missing a huge opportunity for Akeem to explore New York in modern times further. Even with the change of scenery, the film wasn't as worthy as it could've been as it resorted to retreaded elements from the first film for nostalgic purposes. A prime example of this is Akeem's son Lavelle (Fowler). He happened to be the younger copy of Akeem in terms of the fish-out-of-water element and his attempt to find a connection with a special someone in the form of the royal groomer Mirembe, played by Nomzamo Mbatha. It's literally the reversed version of "Coming to America". I'm surprised they didn't call it "Coming to Zamunda" based on the direction they went. The film was also bogged down by a plot that's obnoxiously predictable and disappointingly tame compared to its predecessor. This is the latest collaboration between Eddie Murphy and director Craig Brewer after they previously worked on "Dolemite Is My Name", which I thought was really good, so I would assume that they would deliver the same type of success with this film as well. Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong. Aside from a couple of entertaining moments, Craig Brewer struggled to maintain the interest and charisma in his storytelling, resulting in his direction being surprisingly subtle. As for the humor itself, I thought it was okay, if not forgettable. A couple of moments gave me some chuckles, including Wesley Snipes's enjoyable performance as General Izzi and Leslie Jones as Mary, Lavelle's mother. I'm so glad that Jones is still finding work nowadays. Other than that, the rest of the jokes didn't land for me. I guess that's what happens when they make a PG-13 rated sequel to an adult-rated comedy. Aside from its decent cast, I will give the film credit for the Zamunda set designs and the costumes, especially the latter. If you thought the Wakanda costumes were stellar, wait until you see what Zamunda has in store in their wardrobes. They looked absolutely divine.
Overall, "Coming 2 America" is another follow-up that falls prey to the "long-awaited sequel" curse. Despite Eddie Murphy's decent portrayal as Akeem, the sequel wound up being a toned-down retread of the original. With its underwhelming plot, tame humor, familiar elements, and desire for nostalgia, the film fails to receive the royal treatment. While I didn't hate the film entirely since it had a few good intentions under its belt, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with the execution that it represented in my eyes. Which kind of sucks, considering how much I love Eddie Murphy. Oh well, here's hoping that his next film will be better. If you want to watch it for yourself because you love the original, then, by all means, go right ahead. I'm sure that you'll enjoy it a lot more than I did…or not.
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