Duration: 110 minutes. Ranked PG-13 (raw and sexual content, language and drug content.) On Amazon Prime.
A sequence from Eddie Murphy’s classic comedy “Coming to America” was always going to be a high order. The excellent 1988 film featured a remarkable ensemble of famous actors in their first moment, and today furious fans can recite those jokes as biblical passages.
“Good morning, my neighbors!”
“Hey, f – – you!”
“F – – k you too!” Gold.
This continued devotion is probably why “Coming 2 America” darn near copies its predecessor, down to specific precious pieces: attractive royal servants emerging from the bathtub, Fresh Peaches the rapper, an arranged wedding where the future bride’s favorite food is “what you like”. It’s all here in director Craig Brewer’s film, for better or for worse.
And the repetition doesn’t end there. The comedy once again deals with a man fishing out of water who makes a dilemma about his future. But instead of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) leaving for Queens, this time a son he didn’t know existed, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), flies from the New York neighborhood to Zamunda, finally giving Akeem a male heir.
The prince has several daughters, but Zamunda’s laws prohibit a country from having a female leader, leading to a feminist plot. Are they really going to make Levelle, a ticket scalper Madison Square Garden, king of women complete?
The best laughs belong to enthusiastic, easy-going Fowler, whose character worked his job for his uncle (Tracy Morgan), and especially the ingenious Leslie Jones, who plays his mother Mary. Her first night at the palace, she is perplexed by what is for dinner.
“Someone will tell me why these mashed potatoes are black?” She says.
“It’s caviar,” says Lisa, still played by Shari Headley.
Jones jumps. “You know, my cousin’s name is that!”
Akeem plans to marry his new son to the daughter of an opportunistic rival (Wesley Snipes), but Lavelle begins to fall in love with an intelligent and prosperous palace employee. Where could they have gotten these totally new ideas?
Even with the reconstructions and the abundance of nostalgia, there is a lot of joy in seeing so many beloved characters come back together. Murphy and Arsenio Hall, Who should work a lot harder than him, are always magicians like the My-T-Sharp barbers, the Sexual Chocolate group and the sensual preacher. Also back are James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson and John Amos, among many others.
But a happy reunion can’t recreate the sparkle, innocence, and masterful comedy of the original.
You can’t compete with the setting for the 1988 film: an African prince awkwardly tries to pass as a New York student. Remember when Akeem and Semmi first arrived at their disgusting Queens apartment and Murphy smiled broadly at the unfortunate rat running around? It’s counterintuitive – and fun – for the rich and powerful to fall to our pathetic level. The rags to riches stories, like the sequence, are much more familiar, and therefore less entertaining.
After seeing all the antiquities of Zamunda Palace, I wanted to jump into a cabin and say, “Take me to the most common part of Queens!”