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Blu-ray Review: Coming 2 America

March 8, 2022

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Coming 2 America is a legacy sequel that sees the return of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his royal assistant Semmi (Arsenio Hall), over three decades after they first travelled to Queens, New York from their fictional African nation of Zamunda and tried to make it in the big city.

This belated followup to director John Landis’s classic 1988 comedy Coming to America (even more belated thanks to the pandemic, which caused it to be released directly on Prime Video last year instead of in theatres), is a bit like watching a reunion show.

The same players are back and there are some amusing moments, but the whole thing also feels a bit rusty. There is obviously some enjoyment to be found in seeing Murphy and Hall back in these roles, but the film also a distinct whiff of just going through the motions one more time.

The film finds Prince Akeem assuming the role of King following the death of his father (James Earl Jones). But, since he only has daughters and women are not allowed to rule over Zamunda, he will need to find another heir to eventually take his place on the throne. Lo and behold, Akeem soon learns that he fathered a “bastard son” named Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) during their trip to Queens, with a woman named Mary Junson (Leslie Jones). This prompts Akeem and Semmi to travel back to America to track down the young man, who was raised with street smarts by his Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).

Despite the title, much of Coming 2 America actually takes place in Zamunda, with Akeem taking Levelle and Mary back to live with him in the kingdom and training his son to eventually take over the throne, leading to a mostly predictable outcome. The story essentially copies the original’s “fish out of water” setup, but flips it around by having the city-born Lavelle trying to adapt to life in Zamunda, and the results are pretty mixed. The screenplay, written by Kenya Barris alongside original writers Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, does offer a few funny moments, but some of the jokes also fall flat, such as the suggestion that Akeem’s son was the product of him being date-raped.

Director Craig Brewer, who previously guided Murphy to an awards-worthy performance in Dolemite is My Name, has the daunting task of taking over for Landis and following a genuine comedy classic. As far as legacy sequels that weren’t really needed go, Coming 2 America isn’t as terrible as it could have been, but this doesn’t make it a particularly memorable outing, either. The film generally relies too heavily on nostalgia for the first one, with numerous callbacks, a number of recycled jokes, and a story that follows many of the same narrative beats but presents them in a less satisfying way.

Despite having a sitcomy look to it at times, the film does still offer some fine technical elements, such as the admittedly impressive makeup and hairstyling, which received a not so surprising Academy Award nomination. Mike Marino does a good job of taking over for the now-retired Rick Baker and recreating his Oscar-nominated prosthetics from the original, allowing Murphy and Hall to reprise their roles as a variety of supporting characters, including the old guys in the barbershop.

The vibrant costumes designed by Ruth E. Carter (who won an Oscar for Black Panther and also did the costumes for Dolemite) also provide a colourful feast for the eyes. This might sound like I am damning it with faint praise, and I sort of am, but Coming 2 America operates thoroughly in that midrange of not being as bad or as good as it had the potential to be. Like a lot of comedy sequels, it can’t really hold a candle to the original, but still manages to be mostly watchable on its own terms as a reunion film.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track, one lengthy featurette, and a gallery of trailers for other Eddie Murphy movies from Paramount. There is no digital copy included, but the package does ship with a standard slipcover.

Commentary by Director Craig Brewer

From Queens to Zamunda (25 minutes, 43 seconds): A good overview of the first film’s legacy, with the cast reminiscing about the project and talking about how it felt to reprise their roles so many years later. We also get a fine overview of the makeup, musical numbers and costumes in the film.

Trailer Gallery: Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Trading Places, Harlem Nights, 48 Hrs., Imagine That, Norbit.

Coming 2 America is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 108 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 8th, 2022

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