Eddie Murphy is experiencing something of a renaissance. Dolemite Is My Name was a critical success, which he followed up with his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig in decades. He also has Triplets and the long-gestating Beverly Hills Cop 4 on the horizon. His latest film, Coming 2 America, is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot to enjoy if you’re a diehard fan of the original film, but very little for modern audiences to latch on to. Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is unchanged in this sequel but read on to find out why that may be an issue in our Coming 2 America review.
Everything about Coming 2 America is familiar. The plot of the original is just reversed in the sequel, kicking off with Prince Akeem heading to America to find his bastard son. Almost every major character (and many minor characters) is featured in some capacity in the sequel, invoking quite a few smiles along the way. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall both play a plethora of characters, just like they did in the original. Unfortunately, the humor has not changed, which is detrimental to a comedy of this nature.
Dolemite Is My Name held firm to the nostalgia of the character while thrusting that legacy into the modern day. It was a great mix of classic Dolemite with just enough changes to make it feel modern. This is where Coming 2 America fails. If the sequel had been released in 1989, right after the original, it would probably have been received much better. As it stands, many of the jokes feel extremely dated, and the general concepts of the film are tired and overused. Murphy and his team didn’t update a classic, they’re simply offering an outdated retelling of sorts.
While Prince Akeem and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) initially pull audiences in at the beginning of Coming 2 America, much of the film focuses on Akeem’s son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). As the new lead, Jermaine Fowler is no Eddie Murphy. His performance feels uninspired and stereotypical. Murphy can make stereotypes entertaining to watch, but Fowler feels as though he’s just doing a lackluster impersonation of the stereotype. With so much riding on Fowler’s performance, he does a lot to bring the film down.
Leslie Jones plays Lavelle’s mother, Mary Junson. By this point in Jones’ career, you either love her or hate her. She plays very similar characters in almost everything she appears in and Coming 2 America is no exception. She and Fowler are two peas in a pod, playing up a disappointing stereotype that’s meant to be funny, but instead falls flat. Tracy Morgan does what he can as Mary’s brother, Uncle Reem, but it’s not enough to pull the film out of the depths of mediocracy.
The one aspect of Coming 2 America that really works is Wesley Snipes as General Izzi (the son of Colonel Izzi from the first film). Snipes was the best part of Dolemite Is My Name, and that trend continues with Coming 2 America. General Izzi feels as if the character was snatched out of the original film, and updated for a modern audience. If the rest of the film had been modernized like Izzi, it would have been a much more entertaining affair.
Coming 2 America goes out of its way to cater to fans of the original. While that isn’t a bad thing, it simultaneously alienates anyone who is unfamiliar with the original, or would not be able to relate to its humor after all these years. If you can sit down right now and still fully enjoy the original from start to finish, you’ll likely be at least moderately entertained by the sequel. However, if watching the original feels dated in any way, the sequel doubles down on that and it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy most of it.
About Coming 2 America
Synopsis: The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son.
Director: Craig Brewer
Writers: Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, Jermaine Fowler
Runtime: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes