Coming 2 America (2021)
Coming 2 America (2021)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: March 5th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Craig Brewer Actors: Eddie Murphy, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, KiKi Layne, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Fowler, Teyana Taylor, Nomzamo Mbatha, John Amos

 


 

P

rince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Princess Lisa (Shari Headley) celebrate 30 years of prosperity in Zamunda alongside their three daughters – at the local McDowell’s burger joint, a family favorite. After eating their grass-based patties, Akeem practices staff-fighting with his children. Just before he is to confer with his aging father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), the war-loving leader from the neighboring country Nextdooria, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, who can barely recite his lines without bursting into laughter at the silliness), bursts into the throne room, still angry that Akeem left Izzi’s sister at the altar. And he hopes that, to repair the political relationship, Akeem’s daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) will marry Izzi’s son.

“You are not strong or ruthless.” To complicate matters, Joffer insists that Akeem provide a male heir to inherit the kingdom. And his warlock-like court seer reveals that the prince already has a son – a bastard child left behind in New York. And so, once again, with his trusty advisor Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in tow, Akeem sets off to the Big Apple to find his long-lost kin (Jermaine Fowler) on the other side of the world. “Prepare the royal jet!”

Despite a grandiose musical number full of recognizable performers (followed by a few more, actually) for a mock funeral, it’s not long before old routines reappear – from colorful jabs at the barbershop to off-color sex jokes (including the royal bathers) to Murphy’s affinity for donning distorted faces (visages hidden under gobs of makeup and hair and prosthetics) to simply revisiting footage from the 1988 film. And the spectacular costume designs are also brought back, overflowing with feathers, beads, braids, shiny metals, every extravagant material known to tailors, and other exorbitant ornamentations – seemingly making use of rainbow hues outside the visible spectrum. Amusingly, a great deal of the original cast returns as well, even though a whopping 33 years have passed.

Unfortunately, as before, based on characters created by Murphy, this faithful sequel runs out of laughs pretty quickly. In the vein of Saturday Night Live skits-turned-theatrical-episodes, the humor is limited to the idiosyncratic nature of the personas; the brief bits of slapstick and the more complex scenarios of lion-hunting or montages of studying to be a worthy prince rarely evoke anything beyond light chuckles. There’s a love story (a whirlwind romance), of course, as well as airy examinations of courage, pride, friendship, antiquated traditions versus practical progressiveness, and striving for a sense of belonging and purpose, but it would have been much better to focus on comedy – which should have been the picture’s strong point – especially considering that conflict is all but nonexistent (so unimportant, in fact, that the few obvious predicaments are resolved in jest).

Supporting roles by Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, John Amos, Louie Anderson, and more fit nicely into the script, but again, like its predecessor, the running time is a stretch too long. And the PG-13 rating correspondingly feels as if it neuters the best gags (even the outtakes at the close can’t quite land a gut-buster). Plus, with all the repetition, “Coming 2 America” ultimately works as a rehash or remake as much as a sequel; for its entire duration, even with its pleasant nostalgia appeal, it struggles to justify its own existence, which is probably about three decades too late.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10