1988’s Coming to America is perhaps my favorite comedy of all time. Like many, I can probably quote 90% of it word for word. I’ve long been a card carrying member of the ‘Don’t make unnecessary sequels’ Club. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We never needed a follow up, and yet… just like every other fan of this classic, I approached the idea of a sequel with cautious optimism.
Eddie Murphy reprises his role as Akeem Joffer, Prince of the African nation of Zamunda, who went to Queens, New York to defy his father’s (James Earl Jones) wishes and find a bride who “aroused his intellect as well as his loins”. Despite marrying the love of his life, Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) and fathering three beautiful daughters (Kiki Layne, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love), Akeem now faces the pressures of becoming king with no male heir to the throne. After learning of an illegitimate son (Jermaine Fowler), Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to America to bring him back so that he can marry the daughter of a neighboring dictator (Wesley Snipes) who will assassinate Akeem if their countries aren’t unified.
First off, quell your expectations. This is definitely no Coming to America, but deep down… you already knew that coming in. Classics are classics for a reason and it’s hard to strike the perfect chord twice. But through the rehashed jokes and overly cartoonish performances… looking at you Wesley Snipes… there is something faintly charming about this unnecessary sequel.
Akeem’s journey, as he breaks away from his father’s shadow and some outdated sexist Zamundan traditions, is an earnest one… albeit annoying that a man in a household of women needs to learn these lessons in his 50’s. Kiki Layne, who you’ll recognize from If Beale Street Could Talk and Netflix’s stellar The Old Guard, is a refreshing newcomer as Akeem’s oldest daughter and the clear, rightful successor. Nomzamo Mbatha, who plays Akeem’s son’s love interest, is equally as lovely and feisty as Headley’s Lisa McDowell. Perhaps the film would’ve been far more interesting if these ladies were at the forefront.
Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and a few quirky cameos add some much needed laughs that barely manage to bring life to a comedy that relies far too heavily on reminding you of the first film’s funniest moments. All in all, there are no tear inducing laughs like there was the first time around. Many of the funniest moments come during the bloopers that play during the credits. But there’s enough to make you snicker a few times while the wholesome, yet predictable story unfolds. You may not remember Coming 2 America thirty years from now, or even thirty days, but the nostalgia of it all might make you feel like you didn’t waste your time.
FINAL GRADE: C – Worthy of at least one watch.