Coming 2 America user review

  • You look like a Slave from the future!

    Many, many years before Black Panther, there was another Hollywood production with an (almost) all black cast, set in a fictional, advanced African nation, that didn’t get nearly as much attention or plaudits as Marvel’s superhero tale. Over thirty years later, arrives a belated sequel to that aforementioned movie in question; which centres around a hitherto unknown member of royal blood, returning from the States to Africa as an heir to the throne, bearing more than a resemblance to the plot of Black Panther! Definitely a certain irony to that connection. To not digress any further, Coming To America is not only one of my favourite comedies, it would definitely get onto a list of my all time favourite movies. The announcement of a follow up was met with more trepidation than delight. It’s fair to expect that it likely won’t be as good but what if it sullies the memories of one of my treasured adolescent movie watching experiences (I’m looking at you Dumb and Dumber To)? My heart sank further when I discovered it will be a PG-13 (or 12 to us here). An integral feature of Coming To America’s humour was all about the inventive utilisation of expletives. The subsequent trailer also left me bemused and fearing that my worst nightmare was about to be realised.

    Thankfully, those fears didn’t come into fruition but let’s get the not so great stuff out of the way first. There is use of CGI de-aging effects on Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall fused with a particular scene from the original that is pretty terrible. So bad that it almost took me away from the movie. Whilst it was great to see beloved returning characters, the reverse being it’s also very bittersweet to see such a frail James Earl Jones - his advanced years having stolen his once powerful and authoritative presence. The lack of crassness does take a lot of getting used to (a bit like the Chicago song), although that doesn’t guarantee a good film (if using the aforementioned Dumb and Dumber sequel again as an example). It treads very familiar story beats - just substituting Queens for Zamunda - that might be perceived as predictable and lazy, and I didn’t care for Prince Akeem seemingly going from a headstrong young Prince to be repurposed as a weak, useless king (but more on that later).

    Coming2America undeniably trades heavily on nostalgia and callbacks to the original, and at times feels like the sterilised quasi-remake/sequel that I didn’t really want. Something akin to Coming to America via The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. However, director Brewer and co somehow manages to pull it off. The movie’s beginning seeks to instantly draw you back into that world with familiarity and references to the original. If that was all the film had to offer, then it would become tiresome very quickly. Thankfully, the screenplay is also filled with clever touches and meta nuances that may warrant a second watch to fully appreciate. I love that the nostalgic references simultaneously tie into what has happened in the real world thirty years later - as Coming to America is nothing but quintessentially eighties - without crossing the line of overly politicising, or being too ‘woke’ for lack of better vocabulary (I strongly dislike that word). There is room for some of that such as tradition (royal and national) being a barrier for gender equality but not gratingly so. Some reviews have given far too much away so I’ll refrain except to just mention one cute moment is the callback of Akeem halting a Taxi cab only to be greeted with a decidedly different response from the driver! The dialogue isn’t quite on the level of ‘you sweat from a baboon’ s balls’ - indeed it's wheeled out again in a slightly forced manner - but there are some good lines such as heir apparent Lavelle retorting at Semmi looking like he’s ‘dressed like a slave from the future!’

    On the subject of the actors, the blend of the old and new works really well on the whole. As alluded to earlier, I wasn’t happy with the way Murphy’s character was being presented but it evolves into a decent story arc of how a once idealistic Prince has strayed into a comfort zone of rules and tradition after his fairytale marriage. Actors that have been absent For Far Too Long(!) - Arsenio Hall, John Amos and the aforementioned Earl Jones - make a welcome return. Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi is also a reminder of what we’ve missed - channeling the playful menace of Demoliton Man’s Simon Phoenix. Of the new blood, relative newcomer Jermaine Fowler has the right mix of slightly goofy charm and youthful exuberance as Akeem’s ‘bastard’ offspring Lavelle. As Princess Meeka, KiKi Layne feels like a star in the making with her combo of looks and feisty screen presence.

    After a slow-ish start and fearful reservations, I found myself becoming increasingly invested in the story amidst the wave of nostalgia, smart scripting, new and old characters - particular the return of some very crowd-pleasing favourites towards and during the third act - and even the appearance of some famous musical artists of the past (Brewer missed a trick by not getting Toto and Africa in on the act). There isn’t quite the treasure trove of “laugh out loud” moments of the original but I did find myself grinning like an idiot (Tom Cruise style) - like catching up again with very fond, old friends - for most of the film’s duration. Come the finale, I was metaphorically a fully paid up citizen of Zamunda. Coming2America is some way short of the classic that we need right now but - in these certain and downbeat times - it certainly provides a feelgood antidote that we all deserve.

    7.5/10
    This item was purchased for Amazon Prime sub from Amazon in 2021 . The reviewer still owns this product.

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Coming 2 America

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Author
bruce-leroy
Review score
7 / 10
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