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Coming 2 America (2021)

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.

Coming 2 America (2021) Trailer

 

Coming 2 America (2021) Reviews

In 2019, Ruth E. Carter won an Oscar for creating the fashions of Wakanda. It’s only fitting she would follow that by tightening her stitches on the attire of Zamunda, the other beloved cinematic African paradise first seen in 1988’s “Coming to America.” Under her masterful guidance, everyone in “Coming 2 America” looks spectacular, from the soon to be king, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), to the rose petal-throwing women once again led by Garcelle Beauvais.

The results are hypnotic; you can’t take your eyes off the screen lest you miss some majestic pattern or a finely crafted angle of fabric rising in the air with true fierceness. Fashionistas rejoice, because as we say in my old neighborhood, Ruth E. Carter put her foot in it when she designed these outfits.

Carter’s costumes are worth the price of admission. Just know that, once you pay, you will only be disappointed by everything else if you are a fan of the original film. Because even if you enjoy this completely unnecessary trip back to Zamunda, “Coming 2 America” cannot compete with its predecessor. Director Craig Brewer does the film no favors by flashing back to clips from the original, and screenwriters Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield team up with Kenya Barris to hit the same plot beats that made the first film so much fun.

A sense of familiarity is often enough to keep the movie coasting on a sea of goodwill, but some of the plot ideas are bound to raise a few eyebrows and lower a few eyelids. There’s another against-all-odds love story, but this time, the lovers are far less interesting and charismatic than Akeem and Lisa (Shari Headley). And a comedy might be in trouble if you’re spending half of it wondering if a character has been sexually assaulted.

As the trailers tell you, Prince Akeem has a son he never knew about in America. The filmmakers retrofit this into the original’s narrative by re-editing that awesome nightclub scene, the one with MC Peaches and that woman who worshipped the Devil. Semmi (Arsenio Hall) meets Mary Judson (Leslie Jones) and her friend at this club and, in an attempt to sleep with the friend, drags an inebriated Akeem back to Mary’s place.

Mary gets Akeem so high he can’t remember what happened to him and voila, the instant heir nobody knew about/plot device is born. If you don’t think this is gonna inspire a million thinkpieces, I have a barbershop in Queens I’d like to sell you.

The “bastard son,” as Akeem keeps calling him, is Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), a 31-year-old trying to make his way in the world. Akeem has three daughters and no sons, meaning that whomever marries his eldest Meeka (Kiki Layne), will inherit the throne, as Zamunda has a “Kings Only” law. Akeem’s Dad, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) is literally on his deathbed and is worried that his only son is so “soft” that “he’ll be assassinated in a week” by the leader of Zamunda’s rival nation, Nextdoria.

That fabled land is ruled by General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), brother of Imani Izzi (Vanessa Bell Calloway), the woman Akeem was betrothed to in the first film. Yes, she’s still barking like a dog and hopping on one foot.

Izzi’s son is a possible match for Meeka, but she wants no part of him, thereby failing to unite the two kingdoms. This is where Lavelle comes in. General Izzi has a daughter, Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), whose entrance in the film is nothing short of incredible. If Akeem had a male heir, he could marry her. After Baba (Arsenio Hall, again) reveals the prophecy of a male heir and Semmi corroborates it, Akeem drags Semmi back to Queens to pick up Lavelle.

All the Judsons, including father figure Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan), are willing to buy this strange man saying he’s Lavelle’s daddy once they realize how rich Zamunda is. Mary certainly remembers him. I can only imagine that, had this film been rated R instead of the punk-ass PG-13 it’s saddled with, this scene would have ended with a trip to “The Maury Show.”

Once Lavelle gets to Zamunda, “Coming 2 America” plays the original’s story by swapping the locations for its young hero. But it’s far less effective. Queens is a real place, and the neighborhood Akeem found himself in was full of characters, locales, and situations that would be familiar to Black viewers. Much of the comedy in “Coming to America” stemmed from Akeem’s role as the audience’s stand-in, navigating a world we were already familiar with and responding in a bemused, practically innocent fashion.

Everything in this film’s Zamunda is primarily a figment of its screenwriters’ imagination, and as a result, much is lost in terms of relatable humor. Don’t get me wrong—I’d still move to Zamunda in a heartbeat despite its man-eating lions (who get a supporting role here)—but Lavelle is no Prince Akeem. Fowler has little of the sweetness or joy Murphy brought to his first visit to Queens. Lavelle and his family seem lifted from a Madea movie. This was shot at Tyler Perry Studios, so perhaps I’m not wrong.

There’s also bad blood between Lavelle and Meeka, who is rightfully pissed off that, after all her training and study, she’s being kicked to the curb in favor of some aimless new sibling she just met. You can see the eventual outcome of Meeka’s story arc coming from a mile away, but the movie still forces her to soften to Lavelle almost immediately and help him basically take her job.

There’s a lot of surface-level “girl power” in “Coming 2 America,” but it’s so superficial that it’s a bit of an insult to Akeem’s daughters. When Meeka finally unleashes her full powers in an exciting battle scene, it gets usurped by the film’s crosscutting between her brother’s plotline.

Additionally, the movie spends way too much time on a love story that has none of the pull of Akeem and Lisa. Despite their best efforts, Fowler and Nomzamo Mbatha are given little to work with while building their romance. Mbatha in particular is quite good as Mirembe but she can’t sell this relationship. Again, the film purports to be all about the ladies, but they’re repeatedly playing second fiddle and supporting the male characters. Whenever Lavelle and Mirembe were on screen, I kept thinking “I wonder what’s going on at the My-T-Sharp right now?”

Thankfully, we get an answer to that question, with Murphy reprising his role as barbershop B.S. artist Mr. Clarence. He’s joined again by Murphy’s Jewish wiseacre, Saul, and Hall and Clint Smith in old man makeup. They’re still arguing about boxing and all the other stuff you recall. “Coming 2 America” is at its best—and its funniest—when it’s giving us these 2021 callbacks to the people we remember.

The film’s best emotional scene is a surprising visit to McDowell’s, where Akeem and Cleo (again played by John Amos) have a conversation that features a poignant shout out to the late Madge Sinclair.

I wouldn’t dream of spoiling any of the film’s big surprises, because they’re really all you have to look forward to here. Those, and the performance of Wesley Snipes, who once again waltzes into an Eddie Murphy movie and steals it in broad daylight with no getaway car. Snipes knows his character is ridiculous, so he plays it broader than the side of a barn. He relishes in wearing Carter’s outfits, so much so that you wonder if Snipes brought those items from his own closet instead. General Izzi is not just funny, he’s menacing as well, adding a welcome jolt to the proceedings.

“Coming to America” is my desert island movie. I’ve seen it a million times, to the point where I can just recite the dialogue from memory. I have neither laughed as hard nor heard as much sustained laughter as I did back in 1988 when Daryl’s family left those Jheri Curl activator stains on the couch. A legitimate argument could be made that this review is too hard on its sequel. However, I believe that had I not known the original film, there would be little to no pleasure to be derived here. I did laugh, and when I did, it was out loud and with impunity.

Unfortunately, there was enough downtime between those laughs that I started fixating on numerous plot issues. “Coming 2 America” is like attending your high school reunion: You’ll enjoy seeing the familiar faces of those with whom you once shared such fond experiences, but then you’ll realize that the nostalgia of that past is far more fulfilling than the harsher realities of the present.

  • Odie Henderson –  Roger Ebert
  • Odie “Odienator” Henderson has spent over 33 years working in Information Technology. He runs the blogs Big Media Vandalism and Tales of Odienary Madness.

The fairest way I can describe Coming 2 America is to say that it’s not as bad as I feared it might be. Damning with faint praise, indeed. My expectations were based on two factors:

(1) the original movie, Coming to America, was an amusing-but-forgettable trifle from a time when comedies were a much different breed, and (2) sequels with long gaps between installments (and 33 years qualifies as very long) rarely work. It’s to the credit of Eddie Murphy and the rest of the creative team that Coming 2 America isn’t a complete train wreck but that doesn’t prevent the production from feeling out-of-date, sometimes awkward, and completely unnecessary.

If I was to re-watch Coming to America today, I wonder how many times I would cringe. The whole milieu of what was acceptable in a mainstream comedy was different in 1988. In making the sequel, Murphy apparently wanted to address some of those changes.

One of its themes is an attack on the patriarchal system of government in the fictional country of Zamunda. It does this by instructing viewers that women can sometimes be better rulers than men. This sort of retro enlightenment probably wouldn’t have been deemed insightful in the ‘80s let alone the 2020s. (Maybe back in the ‘50s…)

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Coming to America was the fish-out-of-water story, which recalled both Murphy’s earlier success with Trading Places (also made with Coming to America’s director, John Landis) and Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee.

A little of that element is recycled in Coming 2 America, which gets a lot of mileage out of essentially remaking parts of Coming to America with younger actors in the key parts. The sequel has the same overall “Love Conquers All” idea although the presence of so many subplots (giving the older actors things to do) clutters up the screenplay and diminishes the romance because the couple has two scenes together before they fall hopelessly, madly in love.

As the movie opens, Prince Akeem (Murphy) is about to become King Akeem. His father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, looking damn good at age 90), is about to become the late ruler of Zamunda. Following a lavish funeral, Akeem faces his first crisis. General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the leader of Nextdoria, is threatening an invasion if the two countries can’t be united by marriage.

He proposes his daughter, Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), for a match but Akeem and his wife, Lisa (Shari Headley), have only girls: Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne), Princess Omma (Bella Murphy), and Princess Tinashe (Akiley Love). No problem, though – it is revealed that Akeem has a bastard son whom he sired while on his first visit to Queens. Determined to discover and bring home the lost Royal, named Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), Akeem and his faithful aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall), return to New York.

Soon, Lavelle is introduced to Zamunda and Zamunda is introduced to Lavelle…and his mother, Mary (Leslie Jones), and uncle, Reem (Tracy Morgan). However, although Lavelle is attracted to power and spellbound by Bopoto’s obvious assets, he falls in love with Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha), the royal groomer.

The key questions anyone can reasonably ask regarding an Eddie Murphy comedy is whether it effectively conveys the star’s energy and, more importantly, whether it’s funny. The answer to the latter question is “yes,” although the laughter is sporadic and there are numerous bits that don’t work.

The answer to the former, however, is “no.” Murphy is often a bystander in this movie, only once bringing to the fore his outrageous personality – toward the end when he dons a wig and makeup to play Randy Watson, a singer with the band Sexual Chocolate who belts out “We Are Family.”

The scene-stealer is Wesley Snipes, who continues a series of off-the-wall post-incarceration performances. Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and Morgan Freeman (in a hilariously deadpan cameo) have their moments. (Freeman is even better in one of the deleted scenes shown during the end credits.)

Fans of Coming to America (if such a group exists) will feel at home. Director Craig Brewer (who previously worked with Murphy on Dolemite Is My Name) and the trio of screenwriters “honor” the original while adding some “meta” elements that lampoon the idea of making a sequel for a long-dormant movie and how the story is a re-hash of the earlier film.

Despite having nothing to do, Shari Headley has been brought back for continuity purposes and some of the most memorable scenes have been referenced – this time, though, the bathing sequence features a gender-switch. Murphy and Arsenio Hall also revive the concept of playing multiple characters.

Outside of Eddie Murphy completists, it would be hard to identify a target demographic for this movie, whose reason for production remains obscure. The film isn’t funny enough to warrant a recommendation and, although it doesn’t desecrate the less-than-sacred image of the earlier film, it proves itself to be superfluous.

However, Coming 2 America will disappoint only those who believed Murphy could do something amazing or hilarious with this dubious property. Of all the sequels he might have attempted, this would seem to have minimal potential, as the actual movie demonstrates.

  • A movie review by James Berardinelli

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Coming 2 America (2021) Credits

Coming 2 America movie poster

Coming 2 America (2021)

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and drug content.

110 minutes

Cast

Eddie Murphy as King Akeem

James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer

Arsenio Hall as Semmi

Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle

Shari Headley as Lisa McDowell

Teyana Taylor

Michael Blackson

Louie Anderson as Maurice

Paul Bates

Wesley Snipes as General Izzi

Leslie Jones as Lavelle’s Mother

KiKi Layne as Akeem’s Daughter

John Amos as Cleo McDowell

Vanessa Bell Calloway as Imani Izzi

Director

  • Craig Brewer

Writer (characters)

  • Eddie Murphy

Writer (story by)

  • Barry W. Blaustein
  • David Sheffield
  • Justin Kanew

Writer

  • Barry W. Blaustein
  • David Sheffield
  • Kenya Barris

Cinematographer

  • Jody Williams

Editor

  • Debra Neil-Fisher
  • Billy Fox
  • David S. Clark

Composer

  • Jermaine Stegall

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Coming 2 America (2021) Plot

On the 30th anniversary of his wedding with Lisa McDowell at the end of the first film, Prince Akeem of Zamunda is summoned before his dying father King Jaffe Joffer. Jaffe and his shaman Baba reveal to a baffled Akeem that he had sired a bastard son during his first visit to Queens, New York many years ago, after his aide and long-time friend Semmi had enticed two women into spending the night with them while Akeem was still searching for his future queen.

One of them inadvertently had sex and drugged Akeem, resulting in a tryst he did not remember. Akeem viciously attacking Semmi for setting him up, after Akeem finds out that Semmi is the one who asked one of women to have sex and drugged Akeem in the first place. As Zamundian tradition demands that only a male successor can inherit the throne, and Akeem has fathered only daughters, Akeem is forced to travel back to Queens to retrieve his son.

If not, Zamunda could face a hostile takeover by Zamunda’s militaristic neighbor nation Nexdoria, whose dictator, General Izzi (the brother of Imani, Akeem’s original arranged bride-to-be), has been pushing for Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka to marry his foppish son, Idi.

Following King Jaffe’s funeral and Akeem’s ascension to the kingship, he and Semmi travel back to Queens to find his illegitimate son. During a light-hearted reunion with the barbershop gang they bonded with years earlier, head barber Mr. Clarence informs them that the son in question is Lavelle Junson, a ticket scalper who hustles outside of Madison Square Garden.

After an awkward reunion with Lavelle’s mother Mary, Akeem takes them back to Zamunda, much to his family’s displeasure. When General Izzi learns of this, he drops by to introduce his daughter Bopoto to Lavelle as a last shot at laying claim to the throne of Zamunda, but in order to qualify as a royal prince, Lavelle first has to pass a series of traditional – and hazardous – tests.

Lavelle is at first highly reluctant to place himself in danger, but then bonds with Mirembe, a royal groomer, who tells him of Akeem’s quest to find his queen and encourages him to follow his own path. Lavelle then invites his uncle Reem, Mary’s streetwise brother, to Zamunda. He coaches him on how to blend his urban upbringing with his new royal status. Lavelle gradually develops an understanding with Akeem’s family and, using his wits and some forced courage, he passes and is made Prince of Zamunda.

However, at his accession party, Lavelle overhears a conversation between Akeem and Izzi which makes him believe that Akeem is just exploiting him, and he, Mirembe, Mary and Reem go back to New York. Upset at losing Mary, whom she has befriended, Lisa locks Akeem out of their bedroom. After a pep talk from his father-in-law Cleo, who reminds him of the late Queen Aoleon’s progressive mind, Akeem flies back to the States, while Semmi is left to stall Izzi, who intends to return the next day to either see Bopoto marry Lavelle or declare war.

Returning to Queens, Akeem finds that Lavelle and Mirembe are about to get married. Confronted by Lavelle and reminded of his own life story, he gives them his blessing and releases Lavelle from his marriage to Bopoto. When Mirembe expresses reluctance in the couple cutting all of their ties to Zamunda, Akeem offers to fly Mary’s family back for a proper wedding. In the meantime, Semmi and the princesses, all trained staff fighters, fight off and subdue General Izzi when he invades the palace, forcing him to try a more diplomatic approach.

Upon his return home, Akeem changes the royal succession by allowing his daughter Meeka to ascend to the throne upon his death, while Lavelle is made an ambassador to the United States, and General Izzi has opened Nexdoria for a peaceful political and trading relationship with Zamunda. The film concludes with a grand party at the royal palace to celebrate Lavelle and Mirembe’s marriage, including the barbers from Queens as special guests and a performance of the song “We Are Family” from Sexual Chocolate.

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Coming 2 America (2021) Box office

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Coming 2 America (2021) Critical Response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 49% based on 249 reviews with an average rating of 5.4/10. The website’s critics consensus reads, “Decades after its predecessor joked about the fine line between love and nausea, Coming 2 America reminds audiences that there’s an equally fine line between sequel and retread.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100 based on 47 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.

Cassie Da Costa of Vanity Fair reviewed the film unfavourably, writing that it is “startling in its utter incompetence” and “uses half-baked internet-era discourse as a substitute for meaningful or even entertaining cultural commentary”. Writing for The Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw stated that “the movie is as tired and middle-aged as Akeem [the leading character] himself”.

Peter Debruge of Variety said “For the most part, Coming 2 America falls back on familiar punchlines, serving up nearly word-for-word repeats of amusing bits from the original, but they don’t necessarily play the same in this context.”

Melanie McFarland of Salon gave the film a favorable review, writing that it “honors its predecessor” and overcomes some of the original film’s datedness, by utilizing “more equitable comedy that skewers outdated patriarchal traditions.”

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle praised Eddie Murphy’s performance, saying, “When he brings his dramatic capacities to comic roles, he’s really at his best and most original. It’s strange, these movies that create a warm feeling. It’s hard to say why or how it feels like the summation of the three decades of virtuosic silliness that Murphy has brought to the screen, and of all that has meant to us.” 

The film garnered controversy due to a scene that depicted a date rape towards an unconscious male in a humorous fashion with many viewers taking to Twitter to protest it.

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Coming 2 America (2021) Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards March 27, 2022 Best Makeup and Hairstyling Mike Marino, Stacey Morris, and Carla Farmer Nominated

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Coming 2 America (2021) Movie Info

Set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, newly-crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi(Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York – where it all began.

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