Hard to believe it’s been more than 30 years since Crown Prince Akeem Jaffer (Eddie Murphy) and his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) fled the palace – and an arranged marriage – in the wealthy African nation of Zamunda, and landed in Queens, New York, on a comical quest for true love. The 1988 comedy classic Coming to America was a real gem. Its sequel, Coming 2 America, is more like cubic zirconia. It has a bit of sparkle but pales against the original.
The trip is still worth taking, for nostalgia’s sake and a few good laughs. Just keep the expectations in check.
Coming 2 America picks up with Akeem and his Queens bride Lisa (Shari Headley) celebrating their 30th anniversary at the palace. They have three awesome daughters – all with royal leadership potential. But as Akeem’s traditional egomaniac of a dad, the dying King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) reminds him – women cannot be heirs to the throne of Zamunda. It’s the law. (yeah, whatever). But, as it turns out, Akeem unwittingly fathered a son during his party days in Queens. And now he and Semmi must return to their old stomping ground and find this “bastard son” Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and groom him to be King someday. They find him scalping tickets outside Madison Square Garden, and next thing you know, Lavelle and his former prostitute mother (Leslie Jones) are living large in Zamunda.
At this point, Coming 2 America reminded me – a lot – of the (much better) Princess Diaries franchise. Cue the montage of the boy from the hood getting lessons in how to walk, talk and do various princely things – like snip the whiskers of a lion. And then get him stuck in an arranged marriage, only to flee in favor of true love (just like dear old dad).
For fans of the original, it’s fun to get a glimpse of the original cast of characters. John Amos is back as Cleo McDowell (owner of the single-arch McDowell fast-food franchise), Louie Anderson as Maurice, and the motley barbershop crew (with Murphy in multiple roles) is still spouting politically incorrect banter. They’ve all aged remarkably well – even if the King is on his deathbed. There are plenty of inside jokes to catch (“This is ZNN”). And the movie is quick to poke fun at itself and its predecessor. At one point, Lavelle laments the dearth of original films in Hollywood, and the overabundance of superheros and “sequels to old movies nobody asked for.” All I can say about that is this: I don’t think we’ll be clamoring for a Coming 3 America. The law of diminishing returns is not on your side.
Arty Chick weighs in: I rewatched the original in anticipation of this sequel. It’s one of those flicks you can view over and over, sort of comfort watching. I don’t think the same will be said of this continuation of the story. Nevertheless, it is fun to watch Murphy and Hall (and most of the original actors) reprise their roles in a somewhat forgettable story. I hope they don’t try and milk it for another. But if you’re looking for a diversion from the never ending pandemic, you could do a lot worse.
Coming 2 America is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on March 5.