It’s been 33 years since Coming to America was released, but the classic comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall has endured the test of time by gaining cult status and sustained popularity. Because of that, and likely because of the success of Murphy’s last film project, 2019’s Dolemite is My Name, a sequel has finally arrived to tell of Prince Akeem’s (Murphy) current status.

Based on a script co-written by Kenya Barris (black-ish), Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, Coming 2 America takes place 30+ years after the original. Akeem now has a family with Lisa (Shari Headley), 3 daughters – Meeka (KiKi Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk), Omma (Bella Murphy) and Tinashe (Akiley Love). Akeem, though, has yet to produce a son and per Zamunda’s tradition, a female cannot rule. The pressure of producing a male heir is heightened when General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), leader of neighboring Nexdoria, wants nothing more than to assassinate Akeem in order to takeover Zamunda (plus he’s still a little sour with Akeem not marrying his sister, Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway), all those years ago).

But there is both good and bad news – a dying King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) has learned Akeem does, in fact, have a son. That son is Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and he lives in Queens. Upon hearing this news, Akeem returns to America with his old friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to retrieve his illegitimate son and groom Lavelle to be heir. Of course, wackiness ensues as a culture clash brews between the Junsons (which includes Lavelle’s mother Mary (Leslie Jones) and uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan)) and the Joffers.

Along with many others, I am a devoted fan of the original Coming to America. It was released during a time when Eddie Murphy’s star was at an apex and his introduction of African and black culture through a royal lens was a refreshing, hilarious and welcome change of pace. It paved the way for 2018’s Black Panther as it, too, celebrated African and black culture.

Coming 2 is essentially a second helping of the original, with some updates and variations. Followers dreaming of fan service get huge doses here, as nearly every original character (and gag) makes an appearance. Director Craig Brewer threw in a few more callbacks which relate more to 90s pop culture than strictly to Coming to America. In that sense, this is all hit and miss with, personally, more misfires than direct hits. Understandably, callbacks exist because most fans want more of what made Coming to America special. But, there is such a thing as going overboard, even with a comedy and in this instance, there was just too much.

One of the toughest obstacles to Coming 2’s success was determining its lead. Should this sequel be a continuation of Akeem’s story arc, or should the reigns be passed on to Lavelle? It seems the writers had difficulty making a choice as both characters split time. Going down the middle is fine except there are some issues – this older Akeem is a shell of his younger self. Akeem was set on forging his own path and he defied his father’s wishes to accomplish that task. Today’s Akeem is a respectful and emaciated servant of his father and the rules and traditions of Zamunda. Albeit, Akeem wants to honor his father since Jaffe is deathly ill, but this isn’t the rebellious, educated and philisophical Akeem beaming with that bright smile all while respectful and proper. This Akeem in unsure, indecisive and almost scared – not qualities becoming of a king. Coming 2 let Akeem down, mainly due to Lavelle’s presence.

Speaking of Lavelle, was Jermaine Fowler the best choice to play the son of Akeem? Fowler, whose most recognizable work up to this point is likely the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts, doesn’t have the charisma nor talent of Eddie Murphy. He doesn’t even have the charm of Tracy Morgan who, at one time, was Murphy’s ideal choice to play Akeem’s son (but, obviously, Morgan was too old). Fowler’s scenes limp because of this and because Murphy mistakenly believes 90s pop culture within today’s setting would still resonate. Moreover, the budding romance between Lavelle and Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha) isn’t believable because it wasn't given nearly as much time to develop as it did for Akeem and Lisa in the original.

Fowler is a misfire, even more so when Coming 2 doubled down on the culture clash with Jones and Morgan. Besides all this, who would you rather see more of – Eddie Murphy or Jermaine Fowler? I rest my case.

There are some highlights – Snipes was a scene-stealer as he came off like a jovial Edi Amin. While John Amos, who hasn’t gotten enough credit during his lengthy acting career, was fantastic as a sagelike Cleo McDowell.

Some of the callbacks really were awesome – but there were too many to keep up.

I have a feeling goodwill and nostalgia will win over most viewers, but all would likely agree this is inferior to its predecessor. After 30+ years, one can only hope that it’s entertaining. It’s fun at points, but it’s overall not amusing.

That’s not enough to justify this sequel. Even Randy Watson would stomp his feet at this.

Coming 2 America is available to stream via Amazon Prime. 

2.5 stars out of 5


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