Review by Sean Boelman
Recent years have seen a lot of nostalgia-based sequels to beloved older films, and for every one that is genuinely funny (Bill and Ted Face the Music), there is one that feels like a cash grab (Zoolander 2). Thankfully, the Eddie Murphy starring vehicle Coming 2 America is more of the former, offering plenty of great moments even if it doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original.
The movie follows Prince Akeem as he discovers that he has an illegitimate son in America who he must train to be the heir to his throne. Although the film largely keeps the same fish-out-of-water comedy format, it doesn’t fall into the trap of re-hashing the first movie, instead flipping the situation by having the street-smart New Yorker learn the (exaggerated) traditions of the African culture.
For better or worse, the decision seems to have been to make Akeem a supporting character for this sequel. On one hand, it is nice to see new comedic blood in the form of Jermaine Fowler get the chance to shine, but it also feels like the film isn’t taking full advantage of the talents of Murphy, who seems poised to make a massive comeback.
Like the first movie, a lot of the funnier moments come from the extra parts that Murphy and Arsenio Hall play under heavy prosthetics. However, given this film’s greater emotional focus, there aren’t as many of these as one would like. The other supporting players, like Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and especially Wesley Snipes end up being more memorable in this sequel.
Although the central arc about realizing that one must follow their own path is mostly the same, there is an additional subplot about deconstructing the patriarchy that is quite the welcome addition. Unfortunately, this feels like an afterthought and is frequently a slave to the comedy, which includes some disappointingly misogynistic and transphobic moments.
Apart from these few duds that feel like they should have stayed in the ‘80s, the movie is pretty consistently funny. None of it matches the gut-busting heights of the original, but the film manages to take advantage of the comedic talents of its massive cast despite being limited by the tamer PG-13 rating.
Other elements of the movie that stand out are its soundtrack, makeup, and costumes. The first film received Academy Award nominations for makeup and costume design, and this one lives up to that legacy, updating a lot of what we have already seen. And the movie features a lot of great music, including one riotous, cameo-filled performance.
Coming 2 America proves that Eddie Murphy has held onto his comedic chops despite his soft retirement for much of the last decade, allowing him the opportunity to revisit one of his most famous characters. It’s a funny and crowd-pleasing film that serves as a welcome dose of escapism.
Coming 2 America streams on Amazon Prime beginning March 5.