Review: 'Coming 2 America' worth the trip back to Zamunda
Courtesy of Prime Video
Sequels which arrive years after their beloved predecessor usually end in disaster (just ask “Dumb and Dumber,” and “Zoolander”). In the case of Craig Brewers’ “Coming 2 America,” which is essentially a greatest hits album of Eddie Murphy’s iconic bits, there’s enough goodwill, humorous characters, and elaborately staged musical sequences to make this a worthy trip back to Zamunda.
That it’s called “Coming 2 America'' is a bit of a misdirection considering most of the film takes place in Zamunda where Murphy’s recently crowned King Akeem has to produce an heir to the throne (Zamunda law dictates a man must succeed his father, but Akeem spawned three beautiful and talented daughters). But the screenplay - penned by David Sheffield, Kenya Barris, and Barry W. Blaustein - has an easy and lazy reason to send Akeem and his loyal handler Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to NYC: locate the king’s bastard son who was conceived after a drugged up one night stand.
His offspring, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) isn’t necessarily “Prince” material, making cash scalping tickets at the Staples center for his shady Uncle (Tracy Morgan). Nevertheless, Akeem whisks him and his mother (Leslie Jones) back to Zamunda for training and an arranged marriage with the daughter of General Izzi (a hysterical Weslie Snipes who should eventually be cast in the “Book of Mormon” film) as to avoid war.
“Coming to America” is widely considered a cult classic with a devout fanbase who grew up cherishing the film. So it’s wise that Murphy and crew essentially beat the same drum, albeit in a more tame manner (this outing is PG13 whereas the original wore its R rating like a badge of honor). All the same crew of wacky characters make their triumphant returns, including the barbershop quartet - all played in extensive makeup by Murphy and Hall - that makes “Coming 2 America” feel like a reunion among old pals. Even 93-year old James Earl Jones stops by for a cameo.
“Coming 2 America” doesn’t have any surprises but you can genuinely tell the cast enjoyed coming back for another round in Zamunda (which now faces hilarious comparisons to Wakanda). KiKi Layne shines as Meeka, Akeem’s oldest (and most fierce) daughter who teaches her dad what “Fleek” means. Watching Layne's career trajectory - following her breakthrough performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk” - gives the film some much needed energy. Likewise for Fowler, another great screen presence, who will be interesting to watch. Both actors have the unenviable task of creating memorable characters in an already established universe, but they hold their own against the heavyweights.
Nobody will agree that “Coming 2 America” will outlast its predecessor (not by a long shot) but for a 33-year old sequel to a beloved property, you could do a-lot worse.
COMING 2 AMERICA debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, March 5th