Making a sequel to a beloved comedy years after the fact is always risky. Some are a complete and total embarrassment, while others simply buckle under the weight of the original . Coming 2 America falls into the latter category.
Returning 33 years after the original Coming to America, Eddie Murphy stars as Prince Akeem. After his dying father, King Jaffe Joffer, reveals that Akeem has a son that he was unaware of, Akeem must travel back to Queens to bring him to Zamunda. When he and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to America, they are greeted by some of the characters they met in 1988 – Including the men at the barbershop they visited back then.
There, they are told about Akeem’s son. Lavelle Junson spends his nights scalping tickets outside of Madison Square Garden. After meeting him and the rest of Lavelle’s family, they all travel back to Zamunda for Lavelle to train in order to pass some tests before becoming Prince.
Eddie Murphy is Back
Since the start of the new millennium, Eddie Murphy has had some ups and downs. Some of the ups have included Shrek, as well as roles that garnered awards buzz like Dreamgirls and Dolemite is My Name. The downs have included… just about everything else he has done. Murphy had an early career like very few actors have before or since. He shot to fame out of a cannon after starting at Saturday Night Live when he was only 19 years old. In the years following, he had hit after hit after hit. Including, of course, Coming to America.
As a sequel, Coming 2 America is pretty good. It definitely has its laughs and it’s fun to return to these locations years later, especially with the same characters. The team behind the movie definitely put in the effort to create a reunion type atmosphere. Almost every single person from the first movie returns in some form or another for the sequel. In other movies, this can come off embarrassing. Even somewhat desperate, if the material isn’t there to justify it. Coming 2 America has plenty of moments to remind you why you liked the original movie in the first place. While it’s one of the film’s strengths, it also becomes one of its weaknesses.
Out With the New, In With the Old
While it is fun to see old favorites in the movie, it often feels too reliant on them. In fact, as much as I like several of the new actors added to this sequel (Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes, KiKi Layne), none of them made a lasting impression. That’s not to say they don’t all have their moments. All of them get a chance to shine at one point or another, but the material they are given is not up to snuff compared to that of the original characters.
Almost every laugh in the movie came from someone that was first in the 1988 film. This isn’t the fault of the new people. I don’t think it was done intentionally but their moments are short, sweet, and fun in the moment. The writing and the sense of originality that came with Coming to America is lacking though. It’s fun to see everyone from the original movie but their presence overshadows all the new people and makes them feel like side characters. We are constantly asked to pay more attention to Murphy, Hall, or any number of brief cameos instead of them.
A Fun Diversion, Not Much Else
It is hard to fault the movie for understanding its strengths though. Murphy, Hall, and company are just as funny as they were in 1988. It truly is a pleasure to see them back on screen, making us laugh again, especially after the year we have had. It is unfortunate that Jones, Snipes, and Fowler, especially, were relegated to side roles when, on paper, they are the leads. But I also can’t deny that Murphy has such magnetism, it is impossible to look away from him. Overall, Coming 2 America is a fun watch but it is not going to go down as one of the greatest sequels ever. It’s a fun diversion from every day life, but nothing more.