I’d reached the point where I stopped hoping for Coming 2 America to happen. Waiting three decades will do that.
With the sequel that actually was cobbled together maybe we needed another 30 years to actually get a follow-up anywhere close as funny as the original.
Coming 2 America was a bad idea like Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards. No, it’s like MJ playing for the local rec squad right now. If anything this film is the cinematic equitable of the Jordan meme. It left me in tears that anyone involved thought this was worth a 30-year-wait.
There’s a line late in the film with two characters talking about sequels where they state — If something is good, why ruin it? Someone probably missed the irony in adding that bit of dialogue.
Screenwriters Kenya Barris, David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein have the wrong instincts at every turn. There’s plenty of potential in the plot, but they can’t help but go for the lamest joke option and Coming 2 America becomes as challenging to endure as finding a Randy Watson Greatest Hits compilation.
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprise their roles as Prince Akeem and his best friend, Semmi, and an assortment of other characters. Murphy and Hall seem game, but they don’t have that hungry fire of young stars in Hollywood striving to make a generational comedy.
Akeem (Eddie Murphy, My Name is Dolemite) learns he has a son from his escapades in New York after a wild night with a local (Leslie Jones). That’s good news for Zamunda as Gen. Izzi (Wesley Snipes) is all set to start a civil war if a marriage between their families can’t be arranged. Snipes seems like the only one of the cast having any genuine fun.
This trip to Queens isn’t nearly as much fun as Akeem searches for his heir, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), and reunites with his one night stand (Leslie Jones) and her wild family including Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).
Bringing Lavelle and company back to Zamunda creates a series of problems with Akeem’s wife, Lisa (Shari Headley), their three daughters and the rest of the nation. The whole fish out of water nature of the plot feels very tired as Jones and Morgan run through their typical shtick they do in every role.
Fowler doesn’t have enough presence to stand out and it largely feels like he’s trying a little too hard to be funny. At least his scenes with Nomzamo Mbatha, who plays Lavelle’s barber, hit the right mark. Mbatha makes a solid impression and hopefully the South African film star will be featured in better films for US audiences.
Kiki Layne (The Old Guard) doesn’t have the most well-developed role as she’s basically just asked to stew and pout as Akeem’s overlooked eldest daughter although she does get a decent tryout for a potential Black Panther 2 role.
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Director Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name) struggles to make the comedy work in the majority of the scenes. A big part of that is the dialogue is terrible and there’s only so much he can do, but there’s a flatness like most everyone involved realized midway through Coming 2 America wasn’t working yet they’d come too far to stop now.
The screenplay tries to be more balanced with gender roles, which means there’s no bikini pageants and there’s naked bathers for both men and women this time. There’s also a more intentional slant to how women are treated in certain monarchies. The latter rings a little false as the late Madge Sinclair’s Queen Aoleon was hardly a wallflower and had no problem challenging King Jaffe (James Earl Jones).
I’m always leery of a film that forgoes going “remember when?” for a stream of clips from the original film. In fairness in the case of Coming to America 2, these clips are probably just a desperate attempt to find some humor. And after 33 years all of the goodwill from the first film has long since faded away. That means the random cameos from beloved characters from the first film land a little differently and come off like cheap nostalgia humor.
At least the costume work from Ruth E. Carter is amazing with gorgeous gowns and robes that will definitely be the highlight for wardrobe fans. This film isn’t good enough to warrant buzz to carry it through to next award season, but the costume work really deserves award recognition.
And yeah, I might need to spend the rest of 2021 forgetting I saw this one. Or just watch the original 20 or so more times until this weak sequel is just a very distant memory.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Photo Credit: Amazon Studios