Coming 2 America – PG-13 – 1 hr 50 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched on Amazon Prime Video Friday March 5, 2021
Amazon Prime Video – Pierce County, Washington
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return in their late 80s comedy roles. This time Prince Akeem learns he has a bastard son (Jermaine Fowler) and must travel to America to bring him to Zamunda to become heir to the throne. If you’re thinking, hey, that sounds a little like the original movie, you’d be right. Only this time, America isn’t really the central focus, nor is Prince Akeem — which leaves this sequel on thematically shaky ground.
Many people, myself included, feel that Coming To America ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½ is among Eddie Murphy’s finest movies. Tops in comedy along with 48 Hours ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy has had movies that make you cry with laughter down to movies that make you cringe (Pluto Nash) and everywhere in between. Most recently, he’s on the comeback trail, trying to relive his funny non-children friendly movie phase. Dolemite Is My Name ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ was his last comedy, and it was, somewhat surprisingly, a good one.
When I heard they were making a sequel to Coming To America, I was at first a little skeptical. After seeing Dolemite Is My Name, I was more interested and it became one of my most anticipated films of 2020. Alas, we all know what happened to movies in theaters in 2020, most being pushed off to the future and some to streaming instead of in theaters.
I don’t think seeing this movie in theaters versus streaming would have made much difference in the overall experience. It’s not the type of movie that requires a theatrical screening. Most comedies can be enjoyed on streaming equally to the theater and I’m a huge fan of the movie theater experience. Other genres like action, sci-fi and other more cinematic spectacles demand the big screen treatment.
Also, I’m not one that harps on movie ratings in reviews, but here in Eddie Murphy’s career case, ratings do seem to matter — a lot. His film output when it’s rated R is funnier. When critically reviewing comedies, humor is the #1 aspect we analyze. Is it funny? Does it make us laugh? The story can be implausible (they often are), the characters can act unrealistically (many do), just make us laugh out loud.
Eddie Murphy’s R-rated comedies have done that. This one, however, is rated PG-13.
Murphy never should have left R rated movies. Seriously, he is funniest when he doesn’t try to water down his raucous brand of comedy. Coming 2 America is humorous, but not laugh out loud funny. It’s the semi-neutered joke that makes you smile and maybe even chuckle, but it doesn’t make you laugh. Eddie Murphy himself returning as Prince Akeem is older, slower and not the main focus in either jokes or prominence. Wesley Snipes with his role as the opposing kingdom leader is arguably more funny in his minor character role.
The best parts of this are when they pay homage to the original. The scenes which harken back to those hilarious barber shop characters (played by Murphy and Arsenio Hall in 6+ hours of makeup). Even these characters lines aren’t as funny here as they were in the first movie.
One scene callback example that isn’t as funny here as before is when Akeem walks in front of a taxi. In the original film, the taxi driver jumps out and screams a profane name at him. A minute later Akeem asks Semmi what the name meant? That sort of perfectly timed comedic naivete was hilarious. In this movie, a similar scene involves Akeem stopping in front of a Uber/Lyft driver. That guys gets out and tells Akeem he needs to use the app to schedule a pickup — without the profanity and without the follow-up naivete. It’s timely, yes, for 2021, but it isn’t remotely as funny.
Despite shortcomings, I was happy to see Murphy and Hall revisit the original movie. It wasn’t a bad sequel, like so many are, and at times it almost captures the spirit and magic of the first film, but that one is superior comedically and dramatically in so many ways. It’s (too) obvious they wanted to relive former glory instead of telling a story we absolutely needed in 2021. I’m happy we got this, don’t get me wrong, unlike many sequels, but wished it was funnier. This made me smile. Guess that’s enough, but if it had been R-rated and Murphy had let loose, gone more off the hook old school (like he can do when he wants), this would have been funnier.
After watching this — then rewatching a second time just to appreciate some of the more nuanced comedy — I went back to the original film. Parts of that film still made me laugh out loud, despite it being 30+ years old. Great comedy just never dies. Coming 2 America doesn’t have that same staying power feel. Is it worth seeing? Yes, if only to remind how great the original film was and to smile at the appearance of old friends returning.
Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Todd)