ReviewAbout twenty minutes into Craig Brewer’s Coming 2 America, you wonder, did we really need this sequel? The setting is familiar: a fictional larger-than-life African kingdom, abnormally loud dialogue, and a reference to America as the great land of opportunity. We have a much older Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall indulging in family banter, giving us a flashback to the 1988 original. Except 33 years later, we find ourselves seeing the same thing: the over-the-top quirkiness, the misplaced sense. of rectitude and soft humor. Coming 2 America is a mistake in most respects, especially since there is hardly a moment that makes you laugh out loud.
More than 30 years have passed since Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) returned from Queens, USA with the woman of his dreams, Lisa (Shari Headley). The happily married couple celebrate their anniversary with their three young daughters, and the people of Zamunda greet them and their hamburger joint, McDowell’s (an unnecessary spin-off of McDonald’s in the opening scene). The celebrations stop when Akeem’s father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) falls deeply ill and lies on his deathbed. In a regressive environment of Zamunda, Akeem is considered weak without a male heir to the throne and with his rivals feeling the opportunity to overthrow the kingdom, Akeem discovers that he has a bastard son from Queens in America. And so Akeem fires up his gold-plated private jet to head to Queens again in search of his son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) with a mission to bring him back to Zamunda and prepare him to be king. He succeeds, but Lavelle needs to prove himself and pass the princely test before he can be the rightful heir to the Zamunda throne.
Craig cleverly weaves issues of patriarchy and casual racism into the film. In the Zamunda constitution, daughters cannot be considered heirs to the throne. In fact, an illegitimate son from a foreign land is considered more worthy to be king than a daughter who was groomed to be queen throughout her life. Craig sheds light on sexism on more than one occasion and sometimes tries to present a more egalitarian and progressive narrative. This is especially manifested in a scene where Lavelle is surprised to be asked by three naked women to bathe him, the prince, a scene similar to the original in 1988. Except this time, Lavelle’s mother is also doing having a man clean her private parts while she rests in a bathtub.
And while Craig’s new narrative is welcome, it fails to deliver the audience’s most basic expectation while watching the film: humor. In all respects, the comedy fails – whether it’s Murphy trying to teach Fowler to walk like a prince or young Lavelle trying to regain a lion’s whiskers by luring him in with cat food, none of that really works. Eddie Murphy, much older, is not in his element and at times seems conceited and disinterested in others. Arenio Hall as Semmi is more endearing and has the movie’s best moments, while Jermaine Fowler is decent as the bastard son of Queens who stands out as the prince of Zamunda.
There are other small narratives about Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne), who wants to be the queen and denounces the unfair ways of the system, as well as flashbacks from the first part of 33 years ago, a barbershop in Queens where the elderly talk. politician and a hairdresser who makes Lavelle discover his true self. However, all of these clues are only mildly interesting and serve as a distraction rather than vital plot points to carry the story forward. At one point, Lavelle and her hairdresser Mirembe even argue whether the sequels work at all. You don’t need to watch a lot of Coming 2 America to realize that this sequel surely doesn’t!