Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones
Run Time: 110 mins
Coming 2 America is a competent and entertaining sequel, even if it is more family oriented and lacks the 1988 comedy classic’s edge. Eddie Murphy returns as the Zamundan Prince Akeem, the role that helped propel the actor to stardom after a string of hits, such as Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. Set on the 30th anniversary of his wedding with Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley), Prince Akeem is summoned by his ailing father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), who reveals that Akeem had inadvertently fathered a son on his trip to New York in the first film. As it is tradition in Zamunda for the King’s successor to be a male, Prince Akeem is sent back to New York to retrieve his son. This causes a rift with the now Queen Lisa, who Akeem had fathered three girls with, and the notion of changing Zamundan politics ensues. The film is directed by Craig Brewer, replacing John Landis who helmed the first film, who most recently directed Dolemite Is My Name, a film that cemented Eddie Murphy’s comeback with a fantastic performance as the titular performer.
Coming 2 America best succeeds with its returning characters from the first film and successfully introduces some compelling new faces. Leslie Jones has some of the film’s best lines as Mary, the woman who Akeem had fathered his son with and Wesley Snipes lends a surprising comedic touch as the dictator, General Izzi, of Zamunda’s neighbouring nation, Nexdoria. The relationship between Akeem and his three daughters is well explored, their roles reminiscent of a comedic Shakespearean parallel, with Akeem mirroring his father’s presence. This family oriented feel of the film is what allows it to succeed. It would have really benefitted the film if both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall (who returns as Akeem’s aide and best friend, Semmi and also reprises his other roles from the first film) had more to do as both actors are the reason why audiences would want to invest in a sequel, but the film is more centred on the newer generation of characters. The film is well worth watching for their performances, even if they are more reserved and less raucous than the first film.
It is this raucousness and bite that made the original film work so well that this sequel lacks. Arguably, Murphy and crew had more reason to take a risk with the first film with their edgy comedy as they were trying to establish their careers, rather than rock the boat on a sequel over thirty years later. The film wears a 12A / PG-13 rating rather than the 15 / R rating of the original, which is a shame as it limits the subject matter of the comedy and language of the script.
Coming 2 America is a fun sequel that is worth watching if you are a fan of the original and successfully develops the characters and world that had been established. But if you are looking for an ambitious sequel that is not afraid to rock the boat, this is not it. This sequel deserves credit though for not trying to rehash the main plot elements of the first film and feel like a carbon copy, which many comedy sequels fall into this trap. Coming 2 America is good fun in the moment, even if it may not have the lasting quality of the original.