“When taking on the sequel to a legendary property there’s a certain obligation as a filmmaker because you have multiple generations of people who both revere it and regard it as their own,”Kevin Misher, producer Coming 2 America
It’s been a little under 33 years since the release of “Coming to America,” where audiences were introduced to the land of Zamunda, home to Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his friend and royal servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) who set out on a journey to America – more specifically the land of Queens (NY) – to find Akeem a bride of his choosing, not one that was arranged.
Fast forward to 2021 and both Murphy and Hall have returned for the sequel Coming 2 America along with several of the original cast members including Shari Headley (Lisa), James Earl Jones (King Jaffe Joffer), John Amos (Cleo McDowell) and several new players like Jermaine Fowler as Akeem’s newly discovered son Lavelle, his mother Mary (Leslie Jones) and Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).
Threatened with war against Zamunda if his eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) doesn’t marry General Izzi’s, portrayed by Wesley Snipes, son Idi (Rotimi) and make amends for not marrying the general’s sister Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway), Akeem brings Lavelle back to Zamunda with the intention that he would obtain peace and one day be seated as Akeem’s male heir – after marrying Izzi’s daughter Bopoto (Teyana Taylor).
Shenanigans ensue that shake up the Prince’s plans and Lavelle is ultimately faced with relatable choices that challenge Akeem to reflect on ones he’s made, and the lessons learned from 30 years prior.
A cute premise that should have been equal if not better than the first – admittedly a hard thing to be when the original is arguably one of the most iconic comedies of all time, with lines that fans young and old alike still quote…who doesn’t know where the term “Sexual Chocolate” comes from?
But ultimately, and unfortunately, we have waited this long for a sequel that attempts to follow the comedic game plan of the first, with jokes that are more regressive than humorous and trigger few laughs.
I can’t even believe I’ve just written that about a film starring a comedy great like Murphy, but alas it is simply my truth.
I expected so much more from writers Kenya Barris, who gave us Girls Trip and Barbershop: The Next Cut, and Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield who collaborated on the Murphy classics Boomerang, The Nutty Professor, and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. But Barris did write that Shaft reboot, right? So maybe I shouldn’t have set my expectations so high.
Which makes Kevin Misher’s quote above seem like a throw away. Clearly the regard for the original film is understood, as well as the fact that it’s not just nostalgia but beloved by multiple generations – which to me reads as inclusive.
So, in 2021, we’re doing the aggressive Black sexual woman (Jones), Hall as some sort of bad witch doctor, Rafiki, shaman character (Baba) and an African general (Snipes) who’s raising boy soldiers for war? Seriously, y’all?
And don’t even get me started with all the cameo star power that’s wasted (in my opinion) with weak punch lines – including a slew of R & B stars (I won’t spoil, you’ll see), Morgan Freeman and former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo.
Speaking of pro players, I remember when late basketball star/humanitarian Manute Bol was a guest on the first Arsenio Hall show and shared he was offended by the original movie and its take on his home continent. Because “Coming to America” was a comedy and fantasy, and because I found it hilarious, it was easy to brush off his criticism. However, hindsight is 20-20 and with this new movie, and a bit of maturity, I can better understand why Mr. Bol felt the way he did.
I wish that Jermaine Fowler were given a better vehicle to display his acting chops and comic timing, because he was one of the few highlights – along with a very nostalgic ending that I won’t spoil but will say fans of the first film will greatly appreciate the nod.
And Ruth E. Carter’s costuming brought the flair with which we’re accustomed, in addition to Fatima Robinson taking on the choreography duties that I feel may go underappreciated due to placement around poor material in contrast to Paula Abdul’s iconic dance routine from the first.
Even with the weaker parts, I thought those highlights, final act and its ultimate messaging made the film at least tolerable. There’s also a nice nostalgic moment featuring the late Jackie Wilson’s “To Be Loved” that was a beautiful tribute to Akeem and Lisa’s love story.
However, I don’t believe the movie adds to or improves on anything in the original and, honestly, is not one worth adding to the re-watch queue. I rate it 2 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer.
COMING 2 AMERICA premieres Friday, March 5 on Amazon Prime.
Until next thought, Thomasena