Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. Coming To America came out in 1988, and we fell in love with a prince from Zamunda. Director John Landis and Eddie Murphy delivered at the box-office, and the ticket sales solidified Murphy’s A list status. Most regard the film as a classic, and rightfully so. While Hollywood often thinks it can repeat success by mining the same material, the talk of a sequel had all but died down until recently. Perhaps Murphy wanted to get the band back together.
Nostalgia certainly sells these days. However, a longing for the past often doesn’t end up well in the present. Case in point, Coming To America 2. While the cast is certainly fantastic, the actual film is far from that. Eddie’s second foray as the Zamudan royalty reeks of the same comedic tones that got laughs in 1988, but in 2021 they came off rote and highly unoriginal.
Are there moments in the film where you will laugh? Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall bring back that barbershop schtick from the first film, which always is good for a chuckle or two. For the most part, though, Coming To America 2 is like reliving a small portion of your life over and over again. It is familiar and safe, but you eventually lose interest.
Director Greg Brewer and Star Eddie Murphy have assembled the greatest cast for this sequel but have no idea how to incorporate them into this world properly Landis created so many years ago. Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Arsenio Hall, Wesley Snipes, John Amos, Jermaine Fowler, James Earl Jones, and they even manage to prop Louie Anderson up for a few scenes in the film. While the desire to revisit the original had to be strong, perhaps Brewer and Murphy should have spent time fully developing their concept for this sequel.
As it stands now, Coming To America 2 is essentially the back story of what Akeem was up to before he met his princess, who is now the Queen of Zamuda (played by Shari Hadley), which was apparently having a one night stand with Mary (Jones) resulting in the birth of his son Lavelle. Maury Povich, eat your heart out. Akeem finds out about his son right before his father passes and heads to America to find him. This, of course, brings back some familiar moments from the first film (remember what was old is now new again).
One of the few standouts from the film was Ruth E. Carter’s costume design was out of this world. Carter never fails to disappoint as she managed to weave in bright and bold colors with traditional African styles to create a signature look for Zamunda. Wesley Snipes also was quite funny playing the general of a hostile nation with an eye towards expanding its borders. Murphy and Snipes really played well off of one another, and failing to explore that relationship further amounts to a missed opportunity.
It’s pretty clear why Paramount sold this sequel to Amazon Prime. Had this actually been released in theaters, it would have been quite a dud, especially in our current environment. The studio was able to get some return on its investment, while Amazon was able to push the hell out of the film in hopes of bringing in new subscribers to the service. It’s a win for both parties. Anyone who plans on watching the film should go with diminished expectations. It’s fine for a trip down memory lane, but if anyone has seen the original film, then you’ve essentially seen the sequel.