Coming 2 America review: a fine family reunion, with a lot of new additions

Let’s celebration like it’s 1989. Much in the method 2020’s Costs & Ted Face the Music showed up with Keanu Reeves on a cultural increase, Coming 2 America, the follow up to the 1980s funny classic Concerning America, begins the heels of Eddie Murphy’s victorious turn in Dolemite Is My Name. The feel-good vibes of a current hit penetrate the comic’s return as African crown prince Akeem. His beaming smile rejoins with Arsenio Hall, John Amos, Louie Anderson, the McDonald’s knockoff McDowell’s, and the cast’s lovely impersonations, while brand-new faces likewise get in the fold. Occurring thirty years after Prince Akeem and his assistant Semmi (Hall) very first taken a trip to Queens, New york city to discover Akeem a bride-to-be, he and his better half Lisa (Shari Headley) now have 3 warrior children: Princess Tinashe (Akiley Love), Omma (Bella Murphy), and their earliest, Meeka (KiKi Layne). For a time, they’ve lived out a “happily ever after” ending.

However Akeem’s dad, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) is now passing away, and he fears Akeem might be too weak of a leader to rise to the throne. Without any grand son to rule in the future, the royal line precariously hangs in the balance. Nonetheless, there is hope: Throughout a drug-addled night thirty years back in Queens, prior to he fulfilled Lisa, Akeem connected with a female (Leslie Jones, leaning on her typical SNL shtick) and unknowingly fathered a kid with her. The older, less independent Akeem now needs to venture back to America with Semmi so they can obtain his boy Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and conserve their kingdom, Zamunda.

Craig Maker, who formerly directed Murphy on Dolemite is My Name, styles Coming 2 America into a narratively thin and ridiculous fond memories journey that will calm older fans with a story that’s as much about uncovering existing roots as planting brand-new ones.

Prince Azeem (Eddie Murphy) and his family, played by Akiley Love, Bella Murphy, KiKi Layne, and Shari Headley, stand on a balcony looking down in Coming 2 America

Image: Quantrell D. Colbert / Amazon Studios

The script, composed by Kenya Barris and Nutty Teacher film writers Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, hardly ever develops laugh-out-loud minutes, other than when King Jaffe chooses to attend his own funeral service. In a movie that mainly leans on random cameos in lieu of firmly crafted jokes — a method that rapidly overstays its welcome — the funeral scene strikes on every level. Ruth E. Carter’s regal Afrofuturistic outfits are spectacular. The callbacks are determined. Murphy and Hall revive their onscreen relationship, to charming result. Throwback 1980s artists En Style and Salt-N-Pepa carry out for Jaffe. An over-the-top visitor look from Morgan Freeman eliminates comedically. And Jones and Murphy share a touching scene that unapologetically plucks the heartstrings.

Sadly, the later beats battle to strike the very same highs. As with Concerning America, Murphy and Hall play extra characters while camouflaged with heavy prosthetics, makeup, and fat matches. They consist of the roast-session hair salon workers, the deceptive preacher Reverend Brown, and the tone-deaf vocalist Mr. Randy Watson, with a brand-new addition to the cadre: Hall as the monstrous witch medical professional Baba. A plot gadget who informs Akeem he has a “bastard son” living in Queens, Baba is an enormous miss out on. Rather than the other impersonations, which appeared to lampoon the stereotypes of Queens’ Black neighborhood in jest, Baba doesn’t share the very same adorable origins. A gross other whose sole punchline is hacking phlegm, he’s a low-cost character, and his cost typically reveals.

The very best addition to the cast is a video game Wesley Snipes as General Izzi, the eccentrically callous leader of the nation Nextdoria. Unlike Zamunda, an extravagant kingdom unblemished by manifest destiny, Nextdoria displays the indications of a country plainly impacted by civil war and strife. Take General Izzi dismissing a group of school kids — one kid is called C4, and the others play with grenades. The juxtaposition in between the 2 states produces simple laughs, however it’s totally too shallow. The topic of cultural and wealth distinctions in between African countries may appear too heavy for a funny. However thinking about how important the imagine an African regality governed by unique customs colored the previous movie, and the method Maker and business unlock for such assessment in the follow up, not taking that opening seems like a missed out on chance to link a light-hearted story with concrete historic roots.

Teyana Taylor, holding a rifle and wearing a belly-baring camo outfit, holds Wesley Snipes’ hand in Coming 2 America

Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert / Amazon Studios

That’s the irony for a narrative that’s so concerned with the ways old roots can flower into new faces. In the hopes his bastard son will marry General Izzi’s alluring daughter Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), Akeem and Semmi return to Queens to bring Lavelle and his mother to Zamunda, where they receive an icy reception from Lisa and the rest of the royal family. Meeka particularly looks down on the interlopers — she’s trained her whole life to assume the throne, but cannot, due to a Zamunda law that prohibits women from ruling.

The unearned shine Lavelle receives from Akeem descends to the actors as well. Between Layne and Fowler, Layne is clearly the stronger presence. Not only does her combat training from The Old Guard appear whenever she wields a staff, the camera loves her. She makes every frame pop in an array of sumptuous, colorful costumes. The vulnerability she set forth in If Beale Street Could Talk translates here into a quiet strength. While Lavelle is getting so much to chew on, unfortunately, Layne’s character finds meager sustenance.

And as Lavelle, Fowler makes a bland lead. Take the trials he faces in passing a set of princely tests, or the love affair that develops between Lavelle and his royal groomer Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha). Neither of these storylines carry much weight, because Fowler’s heroic and romantic vibes add up to nil. The comedy is instead strongest when Lavelle is used to unearth Akeem’s journey.

In every sense, this is a silly dad movie, but it sharply charts the ways we assume our parents’ worst qualities as we age. The once-independent prince who traveled to America for love in spite of his father’s protests has grown up to be institutionally conservative, routinely bowing to Zamunda’s sexist laws, and disappointing both Meeka and his wife Lisa (who thankfully has so much more personality in this movie than in the original Coming to America). A mature Murphy, in some ways, makes the audience feel as though Akeem’s soul-searching mirrors Murphy’s. That sentiment probably stems from our familiarity with his career. We’ve seen Murphy rise from a young comedian with a childish, uproarious wit into a venerated performer and actor. We know the highs and lows of his career at the box office. We know he’s back, and we know he seems especially happy here.

Leslie Jones and Jermaine Fowler stand at the base of an elaborate staircase in Coming 2 America

Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert / Amazon Studios

Akeem rediscovering the person he once was, the fearless prince, warms this sequel. Murphy’s charm, his close chemistry with Hall, Snipes’ wily performance, and the resplendent costumes uplift this nostalgia trip. Coming 2 America could have easily been a disaster, and viewers who expect it’ll score the same laughs as its predecessor will be sorely disappointed. But approaching this more family-friendly comedy as a family reunion is rewarding. People who loved the original will likely find their affection for these well-known characters returning. Maker’s Coming 2 America is never a waste: It’s familiar and fine, and an emotionally good story. And that’s enough for this go back to Zamunda.

Coming 2 America premieres on Amazon Prime Video on March 5, and can be leased on Amazon, Vudu, and other digital platforms.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.