This follow-up or remake to a hit Eddie Murphy comedy over three decades ago is a little more self-indulgent than funny. A it self effacingly notes about ‘sequels to old movies.’
Coming 2 America has Murphy reunited with Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer and also with Arsenio Hall as trusted sidekick Semmi.
Murphy’s Prince Akeem of Zamunda will once again go to Queens, NYC when the ailing King (a bedridden James Earl Jones) reveals as unknown, illegitimate son. Who will be the heir according to royal tradition.
Not that it sits with his wife, soon to be Queen (Shari Headley) and eldest warrior daughter Meeka (Kiki Layne of If Beale Street Could Talk) who thinks she’s entitled to this prestigious status.
A schematic tale doesn’t have the fairy tale and fish-out-of-water charm that Murphy had with director John Landis and his cast back when he amassed much success after the Beverly Hills Cop films and the naughty stand-up feature Raw.
A feminist motif emerges from many recycled elements that makes use of Wesley Snipes’ eccentric drum-major despotic rival Gen. Izzi in the machinations around arranged marriages. Leslie Jons and Tracy Morgan who blossomed (like Murphy) from SNL casting as the mother and uncle to Jermaine Fowler’s Lavelle.
It’s the case of a younger actor with some comedic chops going through an arc that Murphy did with more vibrancy with material that more of an edge to it. There are power moves and opportunity to keep the peace, but Lavelle has his mind on a stylist.
Some of the gags have more of a contemporary feel that inadvertently may come off as gratuitous especially when at the barber shop or learning how Lavelle came to be. But seeing Murphy and Hall covered in latex to make their multiple roles elicit laughter like they did back in the day or a new one for Hall helps to mask how less of an emphasis is on their primary roles in an expanded ensemble.
Still to revisit old friends like John Amos’ Cleo McDowell and his associate Maurice (Louie
Anderson, as brought up recently in an interview with Murphy and Hall) manifests quite a case of nostalgia of what made Prince Akeem more forward-thinking before turning more traditional.
If Brewer and Murphy can’t give the narrative much distinction in deference to its characters and cameos like Morgan Freeman (in divine voiceover) a colorful, if conventional diversion looks to appearances ty Trevor Noah as ‘ZNN’ anchor, besides other musical celebrities in Gladys Knight, En Vogue, and Salt N Pepa.
The title’s ironic in that it’s used as a stepping stone for the homeland lavishly recreated from an Atlanta mansion of a hip-hop artist. Murphy’s recent renaissance stalls here in what clearly seemed more fun to make as evidenced from end credits.