Review: ‘Coming 2 America’; Once was enough

After 33 years, the much anticipated, culturally important sequel has arrived and it is a weird one.

Jarrett George-Ballard, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

“Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the ‘80s film “Coming to America” is now streaming on Amazon Prime. This much-anticipated sequel attempts to deliver the goods that made the original an instant classic, only this time around the jokes are modernized and mostly corny.

The film starts off in Zamunda, where viewers see Eddie Murphy’s character Prince Akeem with his family: Lisa and their three daughters. Lisa is Akeem’s lover from the first film; both Akeem and Lisa, who is played by the beautiful Shari Headley, look great considering their last appearance in the franchise was 33 years ago. Black don’t crack.

Right from the jump, there are plenty of callbacks to the original “Coming to America.” In the beginning, while credits are on-screen, there’s a table of photos that display nostalgic scenes from the first of the series’ film: Lisa and Prince Akeem’s wedding, the old guys from the barbershop and Akeem’s employee photo at McDowell’s — a parody version of McDonald’s.

Setting the movie’s plot in motion, Akeem’s dying father, King Jaffe Joffer (the iconic James Earl Jones) informs Akeem that he has an illegitimate son in the States. Akeem is befuddled by this news, as he’s positive that the only person he had sex with was his love, Lisa.

Worried that their rival General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) is going to assassinate Akeem to take the Zamundan throne, King Jaffe emphasizes that Akeem needs to find his alleged son, because he’ll be his successor once Akeem dies.

The next scene shows Akeem throwing his father a funeral party. There were multiple cameos during the party, including appearances from Morgan Freeman, Gladys Knight and Salt-N-Pepa. The cameos feel forced and are wildly overdone, however, resulting in damage to the film and a cringey viewing experience.

The rest of the film follows Akeem, accompanied by his trusty sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and a few other family members on his return trip to America. Upon their return to the U.S., they quickly find Akeem’s alleged son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) selling tickets in front of Madison Square Garden. Akeem puts his New York Knicks outfit on, yet another callback to a scene in the original film, in which he dons the same outfit for a date with Lisa at a Knicks game.

Akeem takes Lavelle and his family back to Zamunda, where conflict arises when Akeem and Lisa’s eldest daughter, Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne) voices that she wants to be the heir to the throne, though Zamunda’s traditions make her ineligible to rule.

An argument can be made that the only reason Lavelle’s character exists is to reignite the plot of finding true love, the original plot for “Coming to America.” Lavelle was supposed to marry General Izzi’s daughter, Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), but just like Akeem in the original film, he doesn’t want a wife that is too subservient. The scenario is almost an exact replica of the original movie, which made for lazy writing.

Lavelle ends up falling in love with his hairdresser Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha), but it’s not believable because there’s no buildup to make their love seem legit. When Lavelle intends to marry Mirembe, Princess Meeka becomes the heir for the throne, and Lavelle and Akeem’s families come together to take a combined family portrait. At least we got a happy ending.

The beauty of this film is that the callback nostalgia makes you miss Murphy’s film presence, his ‘80s movies and the multiple characters he portrays in each film throughout the years. However, that’s all it really is. The movie seems like a cash grab built on lazy references to the original film. Usually, sequels of instant classics aren’t as good when compared to the original, and “Coming 2 America” proves just that. However, the beauty of this film is that it was never supposed to exist — just ask Arsenio Hall.

Grade: C+