Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem survives the 2020s in this hilarious sequel.
The 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy “Coming to America” is one of the funniest and most under-appreciated films I’ve ever seen. He played Prince Akeem Jaffer, the heir to the throne of the African kingdom of Zamunda, while Arsenio Hall was his aide and best friend Semmi, and James Earl Jones was his father-the king; and even Murphy and Hall had some supporting roles inside a New York barbershop. The premise of that movie was that Akeem was tired of the royal treatment and his would-be bride-to-be Immani (Vanessa Bell Calloway) being trained to be a piece of meat. Ergo, he visits the Big Apple to find the meaning of true love, and the results are fun and comical.
Now, its the 2020s, and we have the sequel “Coming 2 America.” Notice the difference between “to” and 2.” Eddie’s back, Arsenio’s back, and even James is back. It’s just as funny as the original, and it takes more chances than the otherwise entertaining “Bill & Ted Face the Music” did. It acknowledges that while most sequels are uncalled for, there are those that can exceed our expectations, and it gets with the program that the women in this fictionalized country are able to be smart and vibrant. This one has a lot to offer.
Akeem is happily married to Lisa (Shari Headley) with three daughters, while dealing with his father’s death and the tyrannical leader General Izzi (Wesley Snipes)-Immani’s older brother-who plans to assassinate him. His only hope is to go back to America to find his biological son Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) to take the throne. Before he met his love, he had a one night stand with the Queens native Mary (Leslie Jones). He doesn’t seem like royal material, especially since Akeem catches Lavelle scalping tickets outside Madison Square Garden, and that’s why he, his mom, and his uncle (Tracy Morgan) come to Zamunda to see him train to be come a prince.
He’s now set to marry Izzi’s daughter (Teyana Taylor), who is trained to like whatever music and movies he likes (just like her aunt), but he has his eyes set on his groomer (Nomzamo Mbatha). And it also deals with the law that women can’t be the heir to the throne, which peeves off Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) and his wife.
A few sections of “Coming 2 America” lag, but most of it is as iconic, wacky, well-intended, and wise as the original. Craig Brewer (who previously guided Murphy in “Dolemite is My Name”) takes over the director’s chair for John Landis, and he’s not here to replace anyone. He’s here to help preserve the spirits of the original.
Murphy and Hall both continue to deliver the goods as their characters without catering to today’s generation. They want to commit to their characters, and we’re laughing at their honest attempts. Fowler has more courage and ambition than Jessie T. Usher did in the “Shaft” sequel from 2019, Layne, Mbatha, and Headley all use their womanhood to se things straight, and more laughs come from Jones, Morgan, and Snipes.
Sequels are not always called for, and I have seen some worse examples, but as I’ve mentioned, there are exceptions, and “Coming 2 America” is one of them. There’s a lot going on, and it’s funny and honest at the same time.
Streaming on Amazon Prime