Coming 2 America is finally here. It only took a little over 30 years for the sequel to 1988’s Coming to America to reach us and, to be honest, I was a little skeptical before watching it. Sequels such as Dumb and Dumber To and Zoolander 2 have shown that when you wait too long to make a comedy sequel, the magic that made the original so funny…is gone. Well I’m happy to say that even though this isn’t as good as the first film, it is still a worthy sequel and I enjoyed every minute of it.
After being married to Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) for 30 years Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) of Zamunda becomes king after his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), succumbs to old age while enjoying his own pre-planned – and spectacular – funeral. With three daughters and no male heir, the future of his kingdom is in jeopardy.
His decision to marry the woman he loves, instead of his arranged bride in the first film, has put King Akeem in the crosshairs of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) – leader of the neighboring nation of Nextdoria who hasn’t forgotten or forgiven this insult. King Akeem now faces two unsettling choices: either force his eldest daughter Meeka (KiKI Layne) to marry General Izzi’s son Idi (Rotimi) to ensure peace, but at the cost of her happiness. Or refuse General Izzi’s marriage proposal and risk war as well as his own assassination. Neither choice is great, but fortunately for King Akeem there is a surprise third choice.
King Akeem learns from Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and Baba, the witch doctor (also Arsenio Hall) that a one-night stand with Mary Junson (Leslie Jones) during their wife-hunting time in America has produced an illegitimate son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). This would allow them to have a male heir marry General Izzi’s daughter Bopoto (Teyana Taylor) instead and thus maintain control of the kingdom while also getting the peace they desire.
All they need to do is quickly visit America, find Lavelle, bring him back to Zamunda, train him up to be an African prince before General Izzi loses patience and have Lavelle marry Bopoto. What could possibly go wrong?
With so many great characters and the majority of the cast returning for the sequel it would be impossible for me to write about all the strong performances in this film. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of the original film, you’ll enjoy the nostalgic feel of seeing your favorite characters return (which they all do), as well as the introduction of several new ones. So for the sake of word length, I’ll cover just a couple.
Eddie Murphy once again delivers a comical performance as he reprises his iconic role as Prince Akeem. Despite the 30+ year gap between films, he slips back into the character with ease. The responsibility of being a father, husband and now a king has changed the character to a degree and taken away some of the free spirit he exuded in the original film. However, he still has the quirkiness that made him lovable and funny.
Granted, this is hardly a serious dramatic role that would allow Murphy to show off any serious acting chops he might have learned in the intervening 30 years, it’s still a solid performance on his part that matches the portrayal he gave in the original film. Plus, keep in mind that Murphy is playing nearly a half-dozen other characters once again.
Sharing the limelight with Murphy is Jermaine Fowler who plays the street smart Lavelle Junson who suddenly learns that he isn’t just a regular black kid from Queens New York, but a bastard prince of Zamunda. Lured by the financial gain of being royalty, Lavelle agrees to go to Zamunda to learn how to be a prince and claim his birth rites. However, the gravity of his situation soon outweighs the royal treatment he receives after moving into the palace. Despite the massive cultural difference between himself and his father, Lavelle soon finds himself walking in the same path. Fowler perfectly portrays the struggle his character faces with these new life obstacles.
Director Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name, Footloose) has done a pretty decent job capturing the vibe of John Landis’ original film while incorporating a new modern tone. By bringing in pretty much all the original actors and flipping the same story, the filmmakers are able to tap into what worked with the original film while maintaining a strong sense of nostalgia and introducing new characters relevant to 2021 instead of 1988.
Sure, that might seem lazy when I say it like that, however the script (by Kenya Barris with original screenwriters Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield) is actually pretty smart with how it taps into the events of the original film to create the hurdles necessary for the sequel to work. They’re essentially re-hashing the same plot, yet it’s still different and familiar enough to be enjoyable.
That said, the flipping of the same story created one of the two gripes I have with this movie – the title. This movie shouldn’t have been called Coming 2 America; it should’ve been called Coming to Zamunda because that more accurately represents what happens in the film. The second gripe I have is that the CGI isn’t great. They used real animals in the original film (hello, Babar) and should have done so with this one.
Coming 2 America is a fun, nostalgic ride that shows you can make a sequel decades later and still capture the magic that made the first so special. I admit it’s not as good as the original, however I thoroughly enjoyed the story and how well it ties in with the first film. With strong performances across the board (for some, multiple performances) and a plethora of quirky, comedic characters from wildly contrasting cultures, this is a sweet, lighthearted film that was worth the 30-year wait. Less CGI animals would’ve been nice, but I can forgive it for that.