Coming 2 America: Directed by Craig Brewer. With Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones. The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son.
Set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, newly-crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi(Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York – where it all began.
Coming 2 America (2021)
Growing up in the 1980s it seemed that both television and movies were always gold. Children’s TV included the likes of Dogtanian, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, He-Man, Fraggle Rock and Count Duckula. In the movies you had The Goonies, Gremlins, The Lost Boys, An American Werewolf in London, Ghostbusters, Stand By Me, to name just a few. It was a colourful and exciting decade for celluloid and one of the undoubted highlights was John Landis’ 1988 comedy, Coming to America. If you haven’t seen the film then you should stop reading now to be honest. In fact, if you haven’t seen Coming to America I am not sure why you even began reading this review. Anyway, Eddie Murphy wrote and starred in the film which told the tale of Akeem, heir to the throne of Zamunda, who turns 21 years old and longs for independence and the chance to wipe his own backside rather than be surrounded by a multitude of servants, not to mention a trio of beautiful rose bearers that decorate every path before him with petals. Akeem negotiates a trip to America for what his father believes will be “sowing his royal oats” before he returns to marry Imani, a pleasant but frighteningly obedient wife-to-be. Instead, Akeem goes to America in search of love and naturally chooses Queens in New York because, well, where else are you going to find your future wife? Coming to America was comedy perfection with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall taking on a multitude of roles within the film and conveying two young men’s rite of passage into western society and finding it hard to adapt to a new way of life. The film remains one of the diamonds of the 1980s, a comedy gem, and rumours of a sequel seemed to linger for years though I never thought it would happen. In 2021, Craig Brewer directed the sequel, Coming 2 America, and naturally I was curious to revisit what had been a key film from my childhood.
Coming 2 America is set 30 years after the events of the first film. Akeem is still Prince and heir to the throne though his father, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones), is now frail. Succession becomes a major talking point in Zamunda for although Akeem will become King after his father, his own successor is not so straightforward. Akeem and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have three daughters but Zamunda’s tradition is only males may take the throne. Akeem’s problems are not helped by the threat from neighbouring Nexdoria, led by General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) whose sister was betrothed to Akeem in the first film. Izzi has designs on the throne of Zamunda and is eager to manoeuvre his own family into a union with Akeem’s eldest daughter, Meeka (KiKi Layne). Things look real serious but a shaman named Baba (Arsenio Hall) reveals that Akeem has a son that he fathered back in New York three decades before. With the succession to Zamunda under threat from Nexdoria, Akeem must once again return to America but this time to find a son he never knew he had.
As I sat down to watch Coming 2 America, I was aware that many reviews for the film had not been great but I wanted to approach this with an open mind. My love for the original film will always remain but I am sorry to say that Coming 2 America was a massive disappointment. Some elements that made the first film great have been retained, including the return of much of the original cast though sadly not Madge Sinclair (Queen Aoleon) who tragically died in 1995 and her absence is strongly felt here. Knowing the first film so well I was perplexed how we could have a scenario where Akeem fathered a child when he was so clueless with the opposite sex and may even have been a virgin prior to meeting Lisa. We learn the truth through flashbacks and though I won’t spoil anything here, I found the big reveal to be not just a let down but actually offensive, making light of what is a serious societal issue when it comes to sex. As much as we have a welcome cast here, they are badly underused. Arsenio Hall feels like a bystander most of the time while his character, Semmi, was so important in the first film. Lisa’s brightness and appeal as a strong, independent woman has been diminished here to the point she is merely just a support act. Akeem is probably the biggest disappointment. The young man, so eager to break free of royal duty, now finds himself subservient to tradition and unwilling to acknowledge the obvious solution to the predicament that forms the entire basis of the whole movie. A heartwarming, funny and often poignant script of old has been replaced by one full of cheap laughs, including toilet humour, and a feeling of throwing too many ingredients into the mix and hoping it all comes out okay in the end. Like the first film, the storyline is ultimately predictable but Coming to America delivered it with so much beauty and panache that you found yourself happy to be along for the ride and your heartstrings were tugged. Coming 2 America plays out its crescendo and I found myself puffing my cheeks and so relieved it was over. Whenever a sequel to a film I love appears decades later, I am filled with trepidation yet hope that somehow I am proved wrong. Unfortunately, Coming 2 America exceeded my worst fears and expectations. It could never taint the original film for me but I will not revisit this again.
Verdict: A sequel many of us didn’t want fails to replicate any of the glory of its predecessor.