'Coming 2 America' a welcome, worthy sequel to 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy
"Coming 2 America" -- ★ ★ ★
"Coming 2 America" may be one of Hollywood's tardiest sequels, clocking in 33 years after the original "Coming to America" premiered in 1988, but the wait pays off nicely because of its sharper direction, enhanced music and spectacle, plus a saturated layer of funny references that greatly boost the enjoyment factor for fans of the first feature.
In my original review, I called "Coming to America" Eddie Murphy's attempt "to prove that he can carry a comedy without being a smart-butt and treating women like disposable hankies."
This on the heels of his misogynistic "Beverly Hills Cop II" and his aptly titled standup concert movie "Raw."
John Landis' original comedy did the trick, giving Murphy redemptive acting credentials as a lovably naive African prince of Zamunda, Akeem, who, along with his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall), seeks to find and marry a smart, independent woman in America.
Where to look for potential royalty? Queens, of course.
With Craig Brewer in the director's chair, "Coming 2 America" picks up three decades later in a virtual backstage musical complete with a politically correct checklist of popular, ultrasafe conventions: love conquers all, women deserve respect, the old ways must be replaced by the new, and military dictators are just misunderstood funky dancers with guns.
"Coming 2 America" opens with an idyllic "Lion King" vibe as now King Akeem (Murphy) awakens with his Queen Lisa (reprised by Shari Headley) to start another day of his long and peaceful reign.
His father, former King Jaffe Joffer (the great James Earl Jones, again), reminds him that under the law, only his son can be the heir to the throne. So far, Akeem has produced three daughters.
"The shame must be unbearable!" says General Izzi (a scenery-chewing Wesley Snipes), the threatening dictator of a neighboring nation.
Then comes the surprise.
King Jaffe informs Akeem that he has a son, apparently produced when he had a drug-induced, one-night dalliance with a partying Queens woman named Mary (Leslie Jones).
So, King Akeem and Semmi return to the Big Apple to find and bring home the newfound heir, a street-wise ticket scalper named Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler).
When Lavelle and Mary finally agree to visit Zamunda, it's a reverse fish-out-of-water comedy with the young man struggling to conform to the conditions of his birthright.
"Coming 2 America" possesses an infectious sense of fun, with bright colors, energized choreography and a screenplay crammed with references to famous and infamous Black celebrities, among them "Benson" (the TV series), J.J. Walker, Jim Brown and Idi Amin.
Will you enjoy this sequel more if you've seen the 1988 original?
Yes, because a lot of dialogue and inside jokes are based on it, right down to the line "Is this velvet?" uttered by an elderly white Jewish man named Saul (played by Murphy) in both films.
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Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Leslie Jones, Wesley Snipes, Jermaine Fowler
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Other: An Amazon Studios release. On Amazon Prime. Rated PG-13 for language, suggestive situations. 108 minutes