‘Coming 2 America’ review: Eddie Murphy and company are back, riding a fun wave of nostalgia

The very first film came at the height of Eddie Murphy’s increase to box-office fame, after a string of hits in the 1980s. The brand-new movie follows a rousing return with “Dolemite is My Name” and his victorious Emmy-winning go back to “Saturday Night Live,” with more fond memories — consisting of prepare for another “Beverly Hills Cop” follow up — yet to come.

At its core, “Coming to America” provided an easy and sweet fairy tale, about a spoiled prince taking a trip to Queens searching for real love. Yet the film invested much of its time merely acting as a zany display for Murphy and Arsenio Hall, investing sufficient time in the makeup chair for their barber-shop characters and more.

Directed by “Dolemite’s” Craig Brewer, “Coming 2” reprises all of that, with a nicely cast next-generation element that essentially replays the plot from a different angle. As a bonus, the story (credited to a trio of writers) comes with a feminist hook, and a lesson, like the first film, about setting aside outdated traditions.

Thirty-ish years later, Murphy’s Prince Akeem is still happily married to Lisa (Shari Headley) with three talented daughters, the eldest of whom (“If Beale Street Could Talk’s” KiKi Layne) would seemingly make a perfect queen.
Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy are back in the barber shop in 'Coming 2 America' (Amazon Studios).

Yet the law demands a male heir, and faced with a threat from the leader of a neighboring land, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, reuniting after “Dolemite” and making the most of his comedic turn), Akeem is delighted to discover he unexpectedly has one, who he somewhat improbably fathered during his time in New York.

Lavelle (comic Jermaine Fowler) and his mom (Leslie Jones) are surprised to discover those origins, but along with his uncle (Tracy Morgan, adding to what’s already a pretty deep “SNL” connection) they jet off to the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda, where Lavelle is supposed to marry Izzi’s daughter and secure the peace. Yet he runs into his own complications regarding arranged marriages, which isn’t helped by the seeming injustice of bypassing Akeem’s other kids.

If that sounds a little busy, much of it is really just an excuse to turn Murphy and Hall loose again on their old shtick, augmented by almost too many cameos to mention, up to and including the closing credits. Fortunately, the film is peppered with some very funny lines, like Lavelle telling Hall’s Semmi that he dresses “like a slave from the future,” and in very meta fashion badmouthing American movies for relying on sequels that nobody asked to see.

It’s frankly hard to tell how well the film would have fared at the box office, however it does make one miss the theatrical experience, if only to share in the reaction when someone like James Earl Jones appears on screen.

In that respect, this extremely nostalgic, mildly entertaining film has a rather prompt undercurrent, even if its shipment by means of Amazon — like a lot of concerns dealing with Zamunda’s royal household — total up to a classy issue.

“Coming 2 America” premieres March 5 on Amazon. It’s ranked PG-13.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.