As a Child of the ’80s, I was a HUGE fan of Coming to America. Originally released in 1988, the movie helped mold my personality and my sense of humor. Back in the day, I was introduced to Eddie Murphy via his appearances on Saturday Night Live, but I really got to know the comedian through his many big-screen outings. While his popularity may have waxed and waned throughout the years, I can still drop oneliners from that classic comedy, 33 years later, which I still enjoy watching every time I catch it on TV! Naturally, I was stoked to watch Coming 2 America.
Returning to a successful storyline has ruined many a sequel, more often than not. When a filmmaker pays more attention to the dollar signs associated with a franchise follow-up film, the quality is often lackluster. Good thing that isn’t the case here.
Picking up after the events of the first film, as Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) becomes the King of Zamunda, he must begin grooming his successor, per his father’s dying wish. Unfortunately, Zamunda law demands only male heirs may take the crown, while Akeem and Queen Lisa (Shari Headley) only have daughters, a mysterious message demands… there is another.
The original cast returns with newcomers Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Fowler, Bella Murphy, Rotimi, KiKi Layne, Nomzamo Mbatha and Teyana Taylor, but Wesley Snipes’ turn as the over-the-top warring general from Nextdooria is the best of the new crew. In any other scenario, his on-screen antics would have demanded more attention, but in this star-studded cast, his character seems to fit in nicely (evoking great laughs from his brief What We Do in the Shadows appearance).
While the first movie hilariously brought the fish-out-of-water scenario to New York, this one reverses course, mostly taking place in Africa. That change of location doesn’t bring as many laughs, but it effectively moves the storyline along. Director Craig Brewer (who has connections to Tennessee!) had a monumentally tough job bringing a new story to these already-established characters, whose original film was comedy gold. The final 15 to 20 minutes of the film (including the outtakes during the credits) are absolutely a riot. And that is because the supporting characters finally make their presence felt.
Younger viewers may only recognize Eddie Murphy from the family friendly shenanigans of The Nutty Professor — which I thoroughly enjoyed — but Murphy first donned wigs and costumes in Coming to America. And it’s these side characters who I wanted more from. Hands down, the Barbershop crew is the best of the bunch. I really appreciated Arsenio Hall during his first talk show back in 1994, and I found myself laughing the hardest at his characters the most in this sequel. The writing staff, along with his performing experience, really bring the most laughs.
While not a perfect film, I don’t know if it’s possible to top the level of entertainment I received from the original movie. This one is full of so much great nostalgia, bringing back classic Eddie Murphy performances, which have been greatly missed for many years. I could see the story eventually extending into a trilogy, should the filmmakers agree to a return.
Much like a character’s meta reference preferring the Beauty Shop spin-off to the Barbershop franchise, I would gladly watch this Barbershop crew many, many times in their own movies. Borrowing the shared-universe theme popularized by Marvel Studios, they could feature plenty of crossover characters from these two films. And since Semmi’s character has been somewhat neglected through two outings, it’s time to finally shine the bright spotlight on Arsenio Hall, if another film is released!
Coming 2 America is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.