by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen
Billed as a “sequel’ to the popular 1988 film Coming to America, 2021’s Coming 2 America, starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, seems almost more a remake, as Murphy, reprises his role as Akeem, a good natured, lovable, pampered royal in need of, in 1988, a bride equal, and in 2021, a male heir who will protect Zamunda, the fantastical and fictional African kingdom.
(He also reprises other roles, including the barber Mr. Clarence, his wiseacre New York Queen’s Jewish friend, Saul, and soul singer Randy. Since this was a “new” movie, I had hopes that Gumby would make a cameo, but in that, as in so much of the movie, I was disappointed. Arsenio Hall, in addition to his primary role as Semmi, Akeem’s friend, companion, and comic foil, also appears as three more characters, making this probably three times more Arsenio Hall than we’ve seen in the last twenty years.
As to plot, early on in the movie, James Earl Jones, as King Jaffe, delivers a delightfully deadpan literal death scene to initiate the action: The king is dead; long live King Akeem. And if he doesn’t live so long, a possibility made real by the entrance of Genera Izzi (scene stealer extraordinaire, Wesley Snipes) of the kingdom of Nexdoria, who will take over the care of Zamunda? There is “gasp!” no male heir. There are, however, three very capable daughters. Presumably, almost anyone can see where this will end. It takes what seems to be a long time to get there, though.
First, following Izzi’s threats, there is the never before known vision of a “bastard” (and yes, they use that term) son, fathered by a long ago one-night stand in Akeem’s journey to America (flashback/backstory/prior funny scene). The movie meanders through the location of said son, Lavelle, (Jermaine Fowler) , the attempt (unsuccessful) to find in him charm and comedic chops that Murphy embodies in Akeem, and the introduction of the young man and his family to his new land of Zamunda. The reversal ploy—Akeem navigating America in 1988, Lavelle learning Zamunda in 2021, which might just as well be Neverland—is difficult pull off, primarily because it is much easier for an audience to envision a stranger learning the ropes of a place the audience knows, than it is to relate to repeated exposures to a fantasy.
Finally, all is resolved in the way most viewers have known all will be resolved since the beginning of the movie. If you want a visit with an old and loved friend, even one showing its age and 30-year-old worldview a bit, it’s a pleasant evening. If you want a film that has beautiful settings and particularly spectacular, marvelous costumes, sit back, ignore the plot, and enjoy. If you want to see Wesley Snipes completely steal an Eddie Murphy film with an over-the-top performance that is genuinely over the top funny, make sure you see everything, especially the credit sequence. If you want a film about an African nation that doesn’t exist but should, watch “The Black Panther” again.
Coming 2 American can be found on Amazon Prime.