Directed by: Craig Brewer
Premise: A sequel to the 1988 film. Prince-turned-king of Zamunda Akeem (Eddie Murphy) learns that he conceived a son (Jermaine Fowler) during his stay in Queens, New York. Akeem brings his now adult heir to Zamunda and prepares him for royal life.
What Works: Coming 2 America is another nostalgia sequel to a popular title from the 1980s and it’s mostly successful in what it is trying to do. As with most follow ups, the key to nostalgia sequels is to revisit the characters, locations, and themes of the original film while telling a contemporary story. Coming 2 America repeats enough of its predecessor while presenting new material. The focus of the sequel is split between Akeem, once again played by Eddie Murphy, and his son Lavelle, played by Jermaine Fowler. The new film echoes the original with the son facing an arranged marriage while falling in love with another woman and the father tries to enforce tradition. The generational conflict recalls the first film while adjusting the scenario just enough to keep the material fresh. Akeem is recognizable as the same character from the first movie but he’s now a king and a family man facing a different set of problems. Arsenio Hall also returns as Semmi, Akeem’s best friend and confidante. Murphy and Hall pick up where they left off and they continue to be a great comic pair. Among the newcomers of Coming 2 America is Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle. Fowler has a likable screen presence and he proves a match for Murphy. Wesley Snipes is also featured in the sequel as the leader of Zamunda’s neighboring country and Snipes is very good in this although he’s underused. Coming 2 America is also consistently funny. It’s rated PG-13 whereas the original was rated R but the new film doesn’t miss much with the more family-friendly comedy. It’s an agreeable film with laughs coming steadily throughout.
What Doesn’t: The story of Lavelle going from the United States to Zamunda reiterates the Pygmalion formula in which a commoner is remade as an aristocrat. This is a popular story but it’s also a cliché and Coming 2 America doesn’t do anything interesting or original with it. A related flaw runs through the movie. Coming 2 America suffers from too many subplots. Aside from Lavelle’s story, Akeem has troubles in his home life, his daughters resent their half-brother’s presence, and Zamunda faces a military threat from its neighboring country. None of these subplots have the room to grow nor are they resolved to satisfaction.
DVD extras: Currently available on Amazon.
Bottom Line: Coming 2 America is a successful nostalgia sequel. It’s overstuffed with more characters and subplots than it can handle but the filmmakers revisit this material in a way that’s germane to the original concept while offering enough that is new to justify a sequel.
Episode: #847 (April 11, 2021)