Coming 2 America is the sequel to the ’80s classic comedy Coming To America and it’s released today on Amazon Prime Video. The majority of sequels are of course inferior; they’re usually uninspired cash-grabs that retread over the original narrative or nostalgia vehicles for old people (which includes fans and the cast) so they can reminisce over their youth and/or the best part of their career. Unfortunately, Coming 2 America is both of these in equal measure; it’s half remake and half a promo declaring “remember when Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were funny?”. Whilst trying to recapture the magic of his heyday, Eddie Murphy and his clique of has-beens have created yet another franchise (and soul) destroying sequel. Like another recent follow-up long past its welcome and original release date, Bill & Ted Face The Music (and Terminator Dark Fate for that matter) the plot of the original movie is similarly ruined. If you recall, the first Coming To America was a romantic comedy about finding love; it was anti-arranged-marriage and anti-gold-digger, it was about true love and monogamy. But now, we have a plot that involves Akeem’s illegitimate son which means marrying “the one” didn’t mean that much to him. Akeem’s father the King of Zamunda told him to go and “sew his royal oats” but that’s not what he was supposed to have done. The way the original story was told, we all assumed the prince was a virginal optimist looking for a soul mate. Well, not any more it seems. 😠
When I first watched the trailer, I assumed like many other fans, that Akeem either cheated on Lisa, had sex with some random woman before he met her, or donated his sperm. Unfortunately one of these crappy setups has occurred and now we have Lavelle, Akeem’s bastard son played by Jermaine Fowler. Speaking of the trailer, as soon as I saw the subplot of daughters and heirs, I immediately thought this sequel would contain Casino Royale-esque anti-sexist role reversals. For example “the royal vagina is clean your highness” would have been a humourous opener with Lisa bathing instead of Akeem but that doesn’t happen, not exactly. More on that later.
After a League Of Gentlemen-esque funeral for King Jaffe Joffer, Prince Akeem is now a King (cue the shitty Bobby Sessions and Megan Thee Stallion track) happily married to his Queen, Lisa in Zamunda. But hold up, without spoiling the plot, he’s somehow impregnated Leslie Jones’ bulldog-looking character Mary despite passing over on some fine-ass pussy in the club back in the ’80s. 😹 If you think that joke was out of touch with contemporary society and not particularly funny, then you’ll hate this flick as much as me. To get past this obvious problem of true love versus sequel profit-making, we have a narrative that involves date rape, which is not a great starter to a wannabe wholesome comedy. But hey, nobody in Hollywood seems to care how many of their own creations they spoil in their quest for nostalgia-induced pay-cheques.
The main problem with Coming 2 America, given that it’s a comedy, is that the jokes do not reach the level of the original, not by a long shot. What the writers don’t seem to understand is that the public’s tastes have changed and this comedic retread feels tired and old, older than most of the creatives involved in making this shite. From the replica opener where we fly over Zamunda from the Paramount logo, we’re reminded that modern-day takes on old classics are never superior. Aside from computer-generated imagery not being preferable to miniatures as is the case with this fly-over, we have almost-constant sub-par recreations of the first movie. Cleo’s “McDonalds has this, McDowells has that” line, Oha singing, Semmi saying “sweat from a baboon’s balls”, and a post-credit uttering of “what is this, velvet?”… we’ve seen and heard it all before… and done better. I mean why dress in the same badged varsity jacket or have an identical scene in Queens barbershop My-T-Sharp when you’ve already been to New York and are no longer “fish out of water”? Akeem and Semmi are now well-travelled men of the world, surely? So why are they still so dumb? And while I’m at it; showing the audience clips of the original movie does nothing but remind us how special the original was and how disappointing and lacking this sequel is.
Whilst mentioning redo’s, Coming 2 includes a piss-poor reworking of the “Coming To America” title song, a bastardisation of Prince’s “Gett Off” and an irksome interpolation of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” which shows us that Nile Rodgers was immeasurably more talented than whoever put together the Def Jam muzak for this travesty. There’s also a quick reference to the Duke brothers Randolph and Mortimer from Trading Places but like everything else in this disheartening sequel we have Saturday Night Live‘s Colin Jost as their descendant. This scene shows how much SNL’s cast and comedic talent has waned because spoiler alert: Jost isn’t funny at all.
With much of the supporting cast from the original, the re-hiring of Shari Headley as Lisa McDowell is at least a non-sexist step-up from the aforementioned sequel-failure Bill & Ted Face The Music. Garcelle Beauvais is still a Rose Bearer, and John Amos and James Earl Jones make swift appearances as Cleo McDowell and King Joffer respectively, but they are way too fleeting for this release to feel fully-connected to the first film. Of course the main two actors are Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall and they’re, err… okay, but their performances aren’t on-par with the original. If you watched Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life looking all bloated and medicated, Murphy and Hall will remind you of him. We thankfully have Wesley Snipes who plays an African Simon Phoenix in General Izzi but even he can’t elevate what is essentially a reunion sketch that’s got out of hand.
Whilst on the topic of cast, people were moaning online when they thought Tiffany Haddish was gonna be in this flick (on grounds of her perpetuating black stereotypes) but the similarly stereotype-loving Leslie Jones (who repeated the outdated ’80s idea of the sole uneducated black Ghostbuster in its reboot or played an angry, smack-talking, black doctor in Death To 2020) is just as overrated and unwanted. To add to Jones’s completely non-stereotypical filmography, here she plays a “ho” who lives in the “hood” with an illegitimate child but apparently that’s preferable to Haddish talking loudly in a couple of movies.
Because of the success of the original film, we have every black celebrity and their mother swarming around this shit, even though it’s, err… shit. We have Morgan Freeman introducing En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa in an early scene (yippee… not) but this feels more 90s than 80s. A cameo from Gladys Knight is more 70s than 80s and seeing Rick Ross is more 00s than 80s. Hitting every time period other than the actual decade in which the original was set and released shows what kind of unfocussed and confused sequel this is. For instance the scene where Leslie Jones is in a bathtub and a male bather says “The royal privates are clean ma’am” doesn’t even make sense since Mary isn’t royal. And there’s a scene where Lavelle and his bride-to-be berate movie sequels, which like It Chapter 2 isn’t meta but rather maddening (if not downright ironic).
Watching this crapfest made me wonder: who wrote this bullshit? It turns out that a couple of “new” bloods teamed-up with the original writers to thrash-out this depress-a-thon. Coming To America‘s Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield are credited as writers along with Justin Kanew and Kenya Barris and in all honesty, they all should be ashamed of themselves. If it’s not sham recreations of classic lines and scenes, we also have the crow-barring of some “modern” issues such as royalty and succession-based sexism but oddly, like I already stated, getting drugged and raped is not only not a great start to a comedy, it makes the wannabe “modern” plot null and void. #MeToo
This brings me neatly to some of Coming 2 America‘s self-hating content. If you recall, the original was tinged with sexism and racism but it wasn’t overt and hey, it was the 1980s after all. In 2021 much of the My-T Sharp back-and-forth sounds simultaneously forced-offensive and out-of-touch. I mean is calling a black African man “Ebola” or saying you’d need a torch to find a black-skinned woman not overly racist especially when a handful of white men are responsible for penning this crap? With such badly-toned and crappily-written comedy I’m surprised this sequel wasn’t titled “Go Back To Africa”.
Aside from the writing, the main and very noticeable problem is the fact that John Landis isn’t involved in Coming 2 America‘s direction. This Prime Video premiere looks very much at home on the platform which is filled with lots of mediocre content. Unlike Landis’ movie, Coming 2 looks stark and depressing, and also cheap at times, in fact it plays like a TV-made, almost Nollywood recreation of the original.
For some reason, the filmmaker chosen to replace John Landis as director is Craig Brewer who created a rather mundane Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy. I assume Dolemite was an unexpected success so the pair teamed-up again, but profit-buddies isn’t how directors should be selected. In case you don’t know, Craig is also the director of the monumentally overrated Hustle & Flow which helped make the shittiest form of Hip-Hop mainstream, the oddly-toned and slightly racist Black Snake Moan, and the “we at FOX have commissioned a TV show for y’all” Empire. But how is this a portfolio worthy of directing a sequel to one of the best Eddie Murphy comedy movies? Is it because Craig’s been in the radius of other black actors over the last two decades? I reiterate, that’s not how you select a director unless of course, you’re a racist.
If you want your legacy ruined, when searching for a John Landis replacement, maybe go all-out and ask his son Max (who made the appalling Bright) to direct. And hey, if you simply want to make a shitty, cringe-inducing, almost embarrassing, and totally forgettable sequel for some quick streaming-bucks, then make one to a shite original so nobody will care… Metro 2 or Meet Dave 2 or Norbit 2… the list goes on. Coming To America 2 was in all likelihood, an attempt to make the public either recall or become aware of Murphy’s pre-2000s or pre-1990s career whilst trying to distract from all the Daddy Day Cares and Dr. Dolittles, but surely a re-release of Trading Places and Coming To America would have sufficed? All Coming 2 America does is prove that the best part of Eddie Murphy’s film career was immediately before Harlem Nights and way before Shrek. For die-hard fans of Murphy, the fact that Eddie can’t seem to get back on track with his 80’s-self must be extremely irritating. Maybe the sequel to Ivan Reitman’s Twins – Triplets – will be different. 🙄 If not, that David Spade joke needs to be tweaked a little and it still rings true… “Look, children! It’s a fallen star. Make a wish.”
Make America Come Again.