REVIEW: ‘Coming 2 America’ Lacks A Solid Story, But Has Heart

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Coming 2 America

Coming 2 America is an Amazon Original Film, produced by Paramount Pictures and distributed by Amazon Studios. The film follows Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) who becomes King of Zamunda following the events of Coming To America. Akeem is told by his ailing father Jaffe (James Earl Jones) that he has an illegitimate son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), who was fathered during his last visit to America. Akeem and his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) travel to America to find Lavelle and train him to be the next prince of Zamunda, while fending off a coup from General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the leader of Nextdoria.

Given that over 30 years have passed since Coming To America was released, a lot has obviously changed with its sequel. One of these changes is behind the camera, as Craig Brewer takes over directorial duties from John Landis. Brewer and Murphy had previously worked together on the Netflix film Dolemite is My Name, and Brewer for the most part manages to capture the same aesthetic that Landis did with Coming To America-whole sets are lifted wholesale from the first film, including the Zamundan royal palace and the McDowell’s restaurant.

Another transplant from the original film includes Coming To America‘s original screenwriters Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, who not only manage to pick up where the first film left off but build upon its events in a way that feels more organic than other long-gestating sequels. For example, Zamunda is shown to have grown exponentially over the years-there’s even a McDowell’s near the palace. They even touch upon an old running gag from the first movie, which I wasn’t expecting!

Joining Blaustein and Sheffield is Kenya Barris, who has co-written the screenplays for The Witches and 2019’s Shaft. Thankfully, unlike Shaft Barris actually writes some clever jokes including a circumcision bit that would feel right at home on black-ish or one of its other spinoffs. Another Barris-esque bit involves Akeem having three daughters with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley), including The Old Guard‘s KiKi Layne as their eldest daughter Meeka.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the cast’s chemistry, especially where Murphy and Fowler are concerned. One thing I loved about the original Coming To America was the fact that Murphy and Hall put their own spin on the “fish out of water” trope: namely, two men born of African royalty accumulating to the “mean streets” of Queens, New York. With the sequel, the reverse is true; Lavelle, a born and bred New Yorker, has to learn how to live in Zamunda. Murphy and Fowler handle this switch effortlessly, delivering plenty of laughs as well as a few heartfelt moments (including a scene near the end where the two men reconcile after a second act falling out.

The supporting cast is also bolstered with comedic talent, from Saturday Night Live alum Leslie Jones as Lavelle’s mother Mary to Tracy Morgan as his Uncle Reem. Of those two, it’s Jones who has the better moments-Morgan tends to be hit or miss, with his best bits coming from friction with Hall. The surprising standout is Snipes; obviously he is more of an action-oriented actor but he manages to showcase surprising comedic chops, as well as leverage his physicality into dancing. Whenever Nextdoria visits Zamunda, they enter with immensely choreographed dance moves and it’s a delight to see Snipes hop about. Also, viewers should keep an eye out for several surprise cameos-including music from Salt n’ Pepa.

Where the film stumbles is its plot, which more or less repeats the same beats as Coming To America-only with Lavelle in Akeem’s place. Lavelle comes to Zamunda. Lavelle struggles to fit in. Lavelle even finds himself facing the same romantic hurdles his father did. I know sequels often touch upon or revisit elements that worked in the first film, but there’s a fine line between “building upon a previous work” and “just playing the greatest hits” and Coming 2 America tilts slightly more toward the latter. I feel a better thread for the film to explore would have been how Lavelle fit into the family, especially since a running subplot involves Meeka frustrated that Zamundan law only allows a male heir to take the throne.

Similarly, a recurring gag from Coming To America which involved Murphy and Hall playing multiple roles doesn’t have the same bite in this film. Granted, it’s fun to see them reprising their roles as local barbers Mr. Clarence and Morris, but Hall as a wizened Zamundan witch doctor is the stuff of nightmares (and feels EXTREMELY out of place with how Zamunda is presented.) Hall himself also feels somewhat underutilized as Semmi, with his aforementioned scenes with Morgan being a highlight. I wish there was more of that in the film, as well.

Coming 2 America doesn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor, but its cast and crew manage to deliver a sequel that builds upon elements of the first film, that also delivers genuinely heartfelt and hilarious moments. If you enjoyed Coming To America or are looking for a film to watch with the family, I suggest checking it out.

Coming 2 America will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting March 5.

 


Coming 2 America
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Coming 2 America doesn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor, but its cast and crew manage to deliver a sequel that builds upon elements of the first film, that also delivers genuinely heartfelt and hilarious moments. If you enjoyed Coming To America or are looking for a film to watch with the family, I suggest checking it out.