With over thirty years since the original film, one wouldn’t think a sequel would even happen. However, I watched the original when it came out and it is one of my favorite Eddie Murphy films. So I was totally interested when I heard they were making the film and couldn’t wait to see what they came up with. While it does retread some of the familiar ground from the first film, the sequel still weaves together new and old, blends those elements into a film that retains the charm of the original, and is laugh-out-loud funny.
Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer, from a screenplay by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, and a story by Blaustein, Sheffield, and Justin Kanew, based on characters created by Eddie Murphy, is a sequel to the original “Coming to America”. In this film, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is happily married to his queen Lisa (Shari Headley) with three beautiful dynamic daughters, Meeka (Kiki Layne), Omma (Bella Murphy), and Tinashe (Akiley Love). However, his father Jaffe (James Earl Jones) is sick and because Akeem didn’t marry the princess of the neighboring kingdom, they are threatened by Nextdoria’s General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). Then Akeem learns from Seemi (Arsenio Hall) and his father that he has an illegitimate son from his time in Queens, NY. After he becomes king, he brings his son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), his mother Mary (Leslie Jones, and Lavelle’s uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan) to Zamunda. He quickly learns that he has upset his eldest daughter who wanted to rule, even though there is a law that prevents it, his son must pass tests to prove his worthiness, and Lavelle is falling for his hairdresser, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha). Will Lavelle follow the traditions of Zamunda or will he, like his father, follow his own path?
Much of the humor in the movie is similar to the original, wherein Murphy plays fish out water Akeem in America. This time around it is his son that is out of his element in Zamunda. The ideas are similar if not the scenarios. In Coming 2 America, Lavelle has never had a father except for his uncle Reem so he craves Akeem’s approval but worries he cannot live up to his father’s expectations. Whereas Meeka is sure she could be a queen to Zamunda, having trained her entire life for it, but will never get the opportunity due to outdated ideas. The themes of the film are not unusual, change, and being yourself. Those ideas are explored through the comedy. Beyond those ideas, we also get a lot of commentary on the current world and discrimination in multiple forms, just as we did in the first film.
Much of the humor is a blend of the old and new. The story brings together most of the cast of the original but brings in new characters, such as Akeem’s daughters, Mary, Lavelle, and Reem. The interactions between Lisa and Mary are one element of humor, Leslie Jones capturing her trademark comedy tone to the quieter Shari Headley. Reem and Sheemi at odds bring another layer of humor. The comedy lies in both the dialogue and the situations. Lavelle must face a lion as part of his trials but how he does it is what makes the scene funny. Even Wesley Snipes is hilarious as General Izzi as he stomps around issuing threats. And James Earl Jones makes sickness funny just by making jokes about his impending death.
One aspect that is not played for comedy is the development of Zamunda traditions and culture. It is a rich blend of old styles of modern, from the dresses the women wear to the music, beating of drums and traditional dances to modern gospel singers combining with rap singers. It is respectful to the cultures in Africa while still showing us the best of American culture. The music is one of the highlights of the film and enhances the story rather than detracting.
The performances are integral to the story and the comedy. Eddie Murphy is the rock around which the performances shine. His performance as Akeem is key to the story and his portrayal is solid as are his interactions with his family. Shari Headley is graceful and strong in her performance, as independent and intelligent as the original. Arsenio Hall is as funny as he was in the first movie. James Earl Jones is a treasure. Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle has a strong performance, his dialogue rich with humor and as charming as Eddie Murphy in the first movie. Kiki Layne is one of the strongest performances, wise and independent in her portrayal of Meeka. And her action sequence is one of the best moments in the movie. Bella Murphy and Akiley Love are also charming. Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan are hilarious in their performances. Arsenio Hall is just as good as he was in the first film. And it was endearing to have John Amos and Louis Anderson back. Wesley Snipes almost stole every scene he was in.
While funny and respectful, it is predicated on the original film and uses most of the same ideas, just twisting it so Lavelle comes to Zamunda instead of America. So there is little that is original. Some of the jokes are merely updated versions of the ones we saw in the first movie but with the majority of the original cast back it brings a fair amount of nostalgia and new characters update the comedy elements.
If you loved the original movie, you are likely to love the sequel as well. It is endearing, charming, and full of so many of the elements of the first movie. Where it shines is in the blend of the old and new, both with new and old characters blending old and new scenarios to create new jokes. It also blends African culture and American into a harmonious whole. I laughed out loud throughout and thoroughly enjoyed the sequel.
Rating: 4 daughters out of 5.
Coming 2 America premieres on Friday, March 5th, 2021, on Amazon Prime Video.