In Brief: The 33-years to the sequel was definitely worth the wait.
Sequels don’t usually take over 30-years to happen. The first film is a hit and — presto — a cleverly-named sequel two is a year or two later. They are rarely as good as the original and, unfortunately, most spawn one or two more.
In 1988 the original Coming to America helped make Eddie Murphy an A-list star. It also propelled Arsenio Hall into the limelight. He went on to do a few movies and some TV, and had successful late night talk show gig.
Coming 2 America reunites long-time friends Murphy and Hall. Akeem is now married and back in Zamunda. He learns of a bastard child living in America, finds the young man and takes him back to Zamunda to learn to be royalty.
He also brings the son’s mom.
The film takes lots of side-trips. One is a neighboring country’s general wanting the newfound son to marry his daughter. General Izzi is played wonderfully over-the-top by Wesley Snipes. By the way, most of the actors — including Murphy — are over-the-top in this one.
Akeem’s father — done again by James Earl Jones — passes away and it makes him king. Succession is on his mind. Akeem’s oldest daughter has trained all of her life for the role and then Jermaine Fowler’s bastard son pops up.
The screenplay is by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield. Blaustein and Murphy connected on SNL in the 1980s and he and Sheffield have written several of Murphy’s most popular projects. Barris co-wrote the Shaft remake, Girls Trip, and was deeply involved in TV’s Black-ish.
Their screenplay is loaded with double-entendres and quick political jabs, and it pokes good-natured fun at past Murphy movies and does a nice knock on sequels. Pay close attention. Their script, and the ad-libbing from an excellent cast, moves fast and is packed with laughs.
If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss a lot of them.
The script’s chaos, and that of the actors, is managed nicely by director Craig Brewer. He most recently directed Murphy in 2018’s excellent biopic, Dolemite is My Name. Brewer also did Hustle & Flow, my favorite film from 2005.
Brewer brilliantly cuts and pastes the packed with cameos, vinette-like sequences of the script together and turns what could have been bedlam into a nicely conceived, but often chaotic whole. It’s a nice piece of work.
Murphy’s now King Akeem plays it straight and is the focal point of the story. Murphy lets the many characters he plays, and those done by Hall, and the lines of his co-stars, generate the fun. Free to roam, they provoke everything from a small giggle here and there to unrestrained laughter.
And do stick around for the credits. It’s filled with some pretty good bloopers and John Legend does a song at the end. Don’t get lost in his beautiful vocal like I did. The song’s lyrics are hilarious.
The bottom-line: Though it had its moments, I don’t remember liking Coming 2 America all that well. Like some forms of alcohol, and some foods, aging seems to have made the concept better and in this case the 33-year sequel-wait is worth it.
Director: Craig Brewer
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Shari Headly, Wesley Snipes, Kiki Layne, Jermaine Fowler, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Nomzamo Mbatha, John Amos, Louie Anderson, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Bella Zahra Murphy
Rated PG for language and mature themes. Lots and lots and lots of fun that can, unfortunately, only be found on Amazon Prime. Murphy is back in a big way. I laughed my butt off. Give it a 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can find Coming 2 America 2 on Amazon Prime.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.