Entertainment

'Coming 2 America' Is a Good Nostalgic Sequel to a Great Movie

Even with its missteps, Eddie Murphy's return as Prince Akeem is a fun comedy.

coming 2 america, eddie murphy
Amazon Studios

Amazon Prime’s latest original movie banks on a decades-removed sequel that many people likely never saw coming, and the Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall-starring Coming 2 America sets out to prove that the fictional kingdom of Zamunda is just as worthy of visiting today as it was in 1988. In a surprisingly fresh follow-up, Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer (Dolemite Is My Name, Hustle & Flow), wholly embraces the nostalgia of its beloved predecessor while breaking some new ground with a unique and timely narrative direction, even if it stumbles a bit along the way.

Classic cast members from Coming to America—including Shari Headley, James Earl Jones, John Amos, and Paul Bates—reprise their roles 33 years later, and veteran talents Wesley Snipes, Leslie Jones, and Tracy Morgan join a slew of newcomers to round out the new additions to the cast.

Although the title hints at revisiting the original movie’s motif of traveling to America to find love, this time Eddie Murphy’s Akeem, now a king, goes back to Queens in order to retrieve his son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) after his dying father (James Earl Jones) convinces him that none of his daughters (Kiki Layne, Murphy’s real-life daughter Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love) could ever rule Zamunda.

In a rather incredible rework of a classic Coming to America scene, it’s revealed that Akeem unknowingly conceived with Leslie Jones’s character Mary Junson during a never-before-seen drug-induced night from his first trip to New York. Upon returning to Queens, Akeem wastes no time in finding his son and rather quickly convinces Lavelle and his mother to return with him to Zamunda. Thus this second installment is largely set in Zamunda, a kingdom that fans of Coming to America never got to fully explore as much as they do here.

Much of the movie’s runtime is spent on Lavelle acclimating himself to the African kingdom and trying to prove that he’s a worthy heir to the Zamundan throne, but as viewers start to get to really know the bastard prince, they realize that his Coming to America-esque plotline is somewhat of a distraction—literally serving as Akeem’s political pawn in the movie, but also acting as a bait and switch by the writers. The true theme of Coming 2 America is about progression and doing things differently, but the film follows a shaky path to arrive at that realization. 

The 33 year-removed sequel comes complete with cringey music breaks, a shocking underuse of both Teyana Taylor and Rotimi’s characters, and some seriously unrealistic air travel times, but the major shortcoming of Coming 2 America is its treatment of Kiki Layne’s Meeka, Akeem’s eldest daughter who has worked her whole life to earn her birthright as the heir to Zamunda. Rather than her eventual vindication coming as a result of the film showcasing her brilliant skillset, the throne is simply given to her once Akeem’s adventure with Lavelle is finally resolved. For a film whose ending was already predictable, Coming 2 America could have done more work to ensure that the final plot twist felt as important as it was.

coming 2 america, kiki layne, eddit murphy
Amazon Studios

That being said, Coming 2 America still manages to catch its footing by the time the credits roll. Its overall tone is silly and easy to buy into, with plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the film. Although it probably won’t be the funniest movie that you see this year, the long-awaited sequel still has a charm and stylistic flair—thanks to wardrobe designer and Black Panther alumna Ruth E. Carter—that makes for a satisfying effort. Plus, scenes like when Akeem introduces Lavelle to his daughters are too ridiculous not to enjoy.

The cameos that Coming to America was known for are back, with Rick Ross (whose mansion the production actually utilized for filming), Gladys Knight, Morgan Freeman, Dikembe Mutombo, Michael Blackson, Trevor Noah, and several other well-known figures making surprise appearances. Coming 2 America gives a nostalgic nod to some of the funniest moments from the original 1988 outing (Randy Watson, most notably), but the best comedic moments occur when the film gives viewers new things to love about Zamunda, like General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) and his eclectic dancing army.

In one of Coming 2 America’s most self-aware scenes, Fowler’s character talks to his royal barber and love interest Mirembe (portrayed by South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha) about the shortcomings of American cinema, saying, “What do we have besides superhero shit, remakes, and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?”

Coming 2 America is literally one of those sequels, but thankfully, its shortcomings don’t bog it down completely to prevent it from being something special. Somehow, the charm of further exploring Zamunda, the lingering veil of nostalgia, and the film’s tenacity to give viewers a more modern and compelling story makes it a worthy, even if not as great, follow-up to the original.

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Joshua Robinson is a contributor to Thrillist.
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