Prince Akeem’s return is an enjoyable Nostalgia filled trip down memory lane with lots of heart but few real surprises
Coming 2 America sees Eddie Murphy return to the franchise which many believe to not only have his finest comedic performances but also be one of the best comedies of all time. Taking on the mammoth task or creating a sequel which would be as well received was always going to be a steep mountain to climb for Director Craig Brewer.
First things first, to get the obvious questions out of the way; Is this film better than the original? The easy answer is ‘No’. Not many sequels in history have managed to surpass their originals and with one as loved as Coming to America, it would have been just one bridge to far to cross
Prince Akeem returns to our screens after a 30yr absence with most of the same charm and heart we all loved back in the original. We see the once idealistic Prince has succumbed to the pressures of being a husband, father and King in waiting. Where he was once the ‘rebel prince’ who was willing to give it all up for love, he now appears to have forgotten those ideals and now more concerned with living up to his father’s expectations and as a future King looking out for Zamunda’s best interests.
Coming 2 America sees him fending off invasion from Zamunda’s neighbouring nation under the command of General Izzi, played by Wesley Snipes. General Izzi is determined to align Zamundas fortunes with that of his own nation with blood by any means, whether that be by marriage between their children or by war. Akeem has 3 daughters and no male heir to facilitate such a union so when it is discovered he has a son Lavelle in America, (played by Jermaine Fowler) he takes to the skies with his trusted sidekick Semmi to bring him home and prepare him for the role as a prince.
“It is also Tradition Semmi, that times must and always do change”
Prince Akeem – Coming to America 1988
The question of just how Prince Akeem became a father is dealt with in Coming 2 America through a combination of narration and comical flashbacks. It may not be to everyone’s satisfaction, but I was happy they at least attempted to explain it rather than just skip over it.
In a similar fashion to the original, some of the best laughs and cutting satire in Coming 2 America comes from Clarence the Barber and his barber shop crew. Despite magically not having aged over the last 30yrs, their discussions seem to be the most connected to our current world. Their social commentary covers everything from sexuality, UFC, sexual harassment and even gender re assignment!
Based just on its own merits, I had a lot of fun with Coming 2 America. There are surprise cameos, stylised dance routines and musical numbers much like the original and of course many laughs to be had. When it does get serious, It takes a critical look at some of the repressive views on women and their perceived low value in patriarchal societies. There is also an overarching theme running through the film which is the desire to carve your own path in life
Returning characters are just how we left them but older. Akeem and Semmi don’t seem to have missed a step. Whilst they don’t have as many moments together, they still work remarkably well as a duo. Being a central character, it would have been good to see more of Semmi’s life and background. Has he done anything for himself over the last 30yrs, does he have children?
John Amos returns in a limited role as Cleo Mcdowell, having successfully brought his McDowells franchise to Zamunda. He is still at war with McDonalds over copyright infringements with variations of the jokes from the first film returning.
Lisa returns as the new Queen Jafar but unfortunately her role seems to have been slightly marginalised. I always imagined the young woman from queens who wouldn’t marry for money and fought for social justice and believing ‘the children are our future’ would revolutionise Zamunda alongside her husband but there isn’t much evidence of that sort of altruistic activity.
Speaking of Zamunda, its prosperity is often alluded to with gold and an abundance of cash, but we never see any of the country outside the palace. I’ve always been curious about the regular citizens of Zamunda. It might have also been interesting to see Lisa’s sister Patrice, she was an important part of the original, what happened to her after their Dad moved to Zamunda, and did she marry Lisa’s ex Daryl?!
Amongst the host of new characters, I found Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi to be the most entertaining and best addition to the cast as an antagonist. It felt like he was a solid original comical creation and a lot of fun to watch but that opinion may not be shared by everyone. Akeem’s daughters were also a great addition to the cast and my only request would have been for them to be more involved overall. Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka, played by Kiki Layne gives a great performance as the stern ‘put out’ rightful heir to the throne and it was interesting to see this sibling rivalry between herself and Prince Lavelle develop into respect.
Meeka, would have been the obvious choice to be her father’s heir but despite the commitment at the end of the first movie to change outdated traditions, Zamunda appears to still be stuck mostly where it was, which is a shame. The flower bearers and bathers were all things Akeem wasn’t that fond off originally, but they are still alive and thriving.
I started to enjoy Coming 2 America more once I accepted the impossibly high regards with which I hold the first movie could never be reached. But what we have here is certainly a lot of fun. At just under 2 hours, it doesn’t feel like it drags at all. The sets, costumes and attention to detail is admirable. The cinematography is top notch and beautifully captures the landscapes of Zamunda and the Palace. When back in New York, much is done to maintain the original look and feel while not feeling out of place now.
MORE See the official trailer here
The fairy tale romance of Lisa and Akeem seems to have developed into a real marriage, with shouting matches and drunken arguments but still mutual respect and tender moments. The Soundtrack does a brilliant job of bringing the sounds and influences from the original up to date and merging them with contemporary artists. It all looks, sounds, and feels just right.
Following up a film like Coming to America was always going to be incredibly challenging so I must commend the efforts made by all involved. It would have been nice if the film had been braver and looked forward to the future of Zamunda for inspiration rather than to the past.
MORE 10 Fascinating Film Facts about the original Coming to America here
The original Coming to America remains one of my top ten films of all time. Coming 2 America didn’t change that for me, which was my main concern. I enjoyed the music, the fun and spectacle of seeing some of my favourites back on screen. It felt like returning home for a 30yr family reunion. You see and hear a lot of the same stories, there are a few new kids running around and you have a drink with your cousins, reminiscing about the old times growing up. After it’s done, you go back to your normal life . You’ve had a nice time for a few hours but nothing that would change your world.
3.5 out of 5
Coming 2 America is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video FROM March 5th