The first Coming to America was one of Eddie Murphy’s most popular movies back in the 80s. Directed by John Landis, it has the classic fish-out-of-water comedy tropes involving Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem Joffer of the fictional Zamunda making his first-ever visit to America. Or more specifically, Queens, New York to
sow his royal oats find his true love. While the movie was a big hit among many fans and viewers alike, I personally found Coming to America rather dull and wasted the comedic potentials of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
Fast-forward to the present, here we have a sequel coming out 33 years later after the first movie. A sequel that I wish director Craig Brewer, who was responsible for Eddie Murphy’s great comeback film in 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name, can do a lot better than Landis’ uninspired 1988 original. Unfortunately, the sequel — simply titled Coming 2 America — turns out to be a mess. The kind of a mess that feels more like a lame excuse of a sequel to cash in the popularity of the first film for nostalgia’s sake. I hate to say this but Coming 2 America is painfully unfunny, with most of the jokes misses the target.
The story? Well, we learn that Prince Akeem takes over his father’s (James Earl Jones, wasted in a cameo appearance) throne as the new king of Zamunda following his death. However, he’s at the big risk of having his otherwise peaceful Zamunda taking over by General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the warlord of neighbouring Nexdoria. Akeem also learns about his “bastard son” (Jermaine Fowler’s Lavelle Junson) from the result of a one night stand he had back in Queens decades ago. Naturally, Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) decided to return to America to find his son.
Despite the obvious title, the sequel isn’t really about Akeem and Semmi’s experience in today’s America while searching for his illegitimate son. They don’t spend much time in America as they did in the first film, which in turn, a missed opportunity that Brewer could have explored the current American culture from Akeem and Semmi’s outsider perspectives. Sure, Coming 2 America does include the characters from the first movie’s barbershop played by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in different latex-covered makeups. But it hardly matters anyway since their appearances are more of a throwaway filler than a necessity.
The decision of toning down the first film’s R-rated to a more audience-friendly PG-13 diluted the jokes even further. Eddie Murphy looks as if he’s simply here for the sake of fulfilling the fan service while his performance lacks the usual comedic charm. The less said about Arsenio Hall the better with his forgettable supporting role as Semmi. For the franchise newcomers, only Wesley Snipes is clearly having fun as the warlord General Izzi. The rest — namely, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s mother and uncle respectively are both reduced to thankless roles. Then, there’s Jermaine Fowler, whose supporting role as Akeem’s illegitimate son Lavelle fails to make a lasting impression whatsoever.
Brewer’s direction is pretty much in an autopilot mode here while the movie’s nearly 2-hour length feels like it’s desperately in need of some trimming. The story — credited to Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Kenya Barris — is largely tedious to the point they recycle some of the same jokes from the first film. If that’s not enough, the sequel even thrown in some cameos too from En Vogue to Salt-N-Pepa.
Given the poor result, Coming 2 America is the kind of sequel that shouldn’t be made in the first place and best left the first film alone. Eddie Murphy clearly deserves better than this, easily one of his worst comedies in recent memory.
Coming 2 America is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video beginning March 5, 2021.