There is a moment in Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 comedy classic, where Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), the bastard son of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), is having a conversation with Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha), a hair stylist who works in Akeem’s palace. A bond is growing between the two and they are getting to know each other. Labella asks Mirembe what kind of movies they like. Mirembe says that American movies are the best, to which Lavelle replies, “all we have are superhero movies, remakes, and sequels nobody wants because they ruin the original.” Coming 2 America is not the first film to slide a meta line like this into their movie and though the statement isn’t fully true, it does kind of apply here. I won’t say that Coming 2 America ruins the original, but watching this film made me appreciate the original even more. While I enjoyed seeing familiar characters and bits, Coming 2 America is too messy, too unfocused, and just not nearly as funny as its predecessor.
The last time we were in the African country of Zamunda, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) was marrying the love of his life, Lisa (Shari Headley), a woman he met in Queens, New York. Now, thirty years later, Akeem and Lisa have three daughters and King Jaffe Joffer (James Earle Jones) is on his death bed, which will make Akeem King of Zamunda, though without a heir to thrown. To his surprise, Akeem is informed by his trusty assistant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) that he has a son in Queens. Akeem is unaware of this because he was high when he met the woman who would eventually have his child. Akeem and Semmi go back to Queens to find Lavelle and bring him back to Zamunda in hopes that he will take his rightful place as Prince of Zamunda.
One of the great aspects of the original Coming to America was how simple the movie was. The film is a simple romantic comedy about a man who wants to find someone who will love him not because he is a prince of a country who’s face is literally on the country’s currency, but for who he is as a person. We watch as he and Lisa’s relationship progressively grows throughout the movie through all the obstacles that stood in their way. This simplicity let us really get to know the characters and feel for their relationship while also letting jokes fly by the second.
Unfortunately, there is too much going on in Coming 2 America for us to really care about any of the characters. Along with Akeem finding out he has a son and his journey to becoming a prince, we also have Akeem’s daughter, Meeka (Kiki Layne), hoping Akeem changes the rules of Zamunda so that she could be heir to the thrown after Akeem, a rivalry with a neighboring tribe led by the charismatic and insane General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, far and away the best part of the film), the growing love story between Lavelle and Mirembe, the relationship between Akeem and Lisa, and a number of side bits. The film is almost two hours, yet it never quite knows what to focus on. I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the film and really didn’t care if Lavelle became a prince or not or about his relationship with Mirembe. The film also does a terrible of fleshing out Meeka, and barely makes Lisa a character despite her being a major part of the first film and being the queen of Zamunda. Though the there are good intentions in its themes of equality, changing of tradition, and adapting to modern times, nothing is ever hammered home and everything feels very thin.
Despite this, I did enjoy seeing familiar faces throughout the film. It was fun seeing Murphy as Akeem and Hall doesn’t miss a beat as Semmi. Snipes is having an absolute blast and Layne’s star continues to rise with every roll that she takes. We also get some great cameos, none of which I will spoil because they’re pretty great and perfectly timed, as well as classic characters from the original like Sexual Chocolate and barbershop crew that steal each scene they are in. The costumes and production design are extravagant, bright, and stunning and the makeup is incredible and should be given awards consideration.
Coming 2 America doesn’t ruin the greatness of the original film, but can’t compare to it. With too much going on and lack of emotion, this is a far-too-late sequel we ultimately didn’t need. You can tell while watching the film that everyone on set was having a blast while making it and I imagine this production was incredibly fun. I just wish we as a viewer had as much fun watching it as they did making it.
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