Coming 2 America (16+, 108mins) Directed by Craig Brewer **
The last time we saw Prince Akeem Joffer, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Debbie Gibson topped the charts and the Netherlands had just been crowned as the champions of European football.
Joe Dante’s 1988 comedy about an African prince looking for love in New York’s Queens was a smash hit, despite mixed reviews. It marked the first time Eddie Murphy donned prosthetics to play multiple characters (something that would become part of his regular schtick during the next decade-and-a-half), the high-water mark of co-star Arsenio Hall’s screen career and the end of Murphy’s initial golden run of success.
Thirty-three years on (only Blade Runner and Mary Poppins have had a longer gap between an original movie and a sequel) and, while much has changed in the world, little progress appears to have been made, either in the fictional world of Zamunda, or what Murphy and his collaborators find funny. While not quite as awful as last year’s Crocodile Dundee exhumation, this is a ploddingly predictable, sexist, lazily written throwback that feels as out of touch with today’s audiences as the now King Akeem is from the world his three daughters are growing up in.
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While eldest child Meeka (Kiki Layne) had always thought that she might one day take the throne, her hopes are dashed when Akeem discovers he has an adult son – the result of a one-night stand on his original trip to America almost 32 years ago.
With neighbouring country Nexdorian’s leader General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) sensing a weakness in Akeem’s leadership, the latter is eager to secure his line’s future via a male heir.
However, after tracking down Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), as he scalps tickets outside Madison Square Garden, Akeem begins to wonder if his free-spirited progeny is the right choice. Especially when his head his initially turned by Izzi’s daughter Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), prompting an “automatic shotgun wedding” proposal by her nefarious father, only for him to then fall for the far more humble royal groomer Mirembe (Nomazmo Mbatha).
Coming to America was first released in 1988.
If that all sounds suspiciously familiar, that’s because it is. Like Crocodile Dundee 2, Coming 2 America is less a story continuation and more a plot-reversal remake. It’s essentially another tale of a prince looking for a woman who “arouses my intellect, as well as my loins”, but this time he has to travel from the US TO Africa to find her.
Director Craig Brewer, who combined with Murphy for 2019’s critically acclaimed Dolemite is My Name, can’t capture the same spark here, Akeem so blank a canvas that it requires the contrived entry of other Murphy characters like Sexual Chocolate lead singer Randy Watson and barber Randy to generate what few laughs there are.
Talents like Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones are also wasted, as the story veers violently between schmaltz and smut, off-colour jokes and sloppy sentiments (culminating in a lamentable finale involving Sister Sledge’s now well overused We Are Family). Leery camera shots of revealing outfits don’t help the outdated feel, while we haven’t seen aggressive product placement like this since The Golden Child’s infamous soda can scene.
In the end, you’re left feeling disappointed and deflated, contemplating the irony of them keeping in a discussion about American cinema and “sequels that nobody asked for” and thinking that Murphy is essentially the African-American equivalent of John Travolta – constantly threatening a comeback, only to then make a string of terrible movies.
Coming 2 America is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Coming 2 America: Amazon debuts Eddie Murphy’s dire, desperately unfunny sequel