(2021) (Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler) (PG-13)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Comedy: Having learned that he fathered a child thirty years earlier while in America, the newly ascended king of an African country sets out to find his heir and turn him into a prince.
Thirty years after traveling to America with his royal confidante, Semmi (ARSENIO HALL), and finding his bride in American Lisa (SHARI HEADLEY) -- with whom he has three daughters, Meeka (KIKI LAYNE), Omma (BELLA MURPHY), and Tinashe (AKILEY LOVE) -- Prince Akeem (EDDIE MURPHY) has just become the king of Zamunda upon the passing of his father, King Jaffe Joffer (JAMES EARL JONES).
While sad about that, he must contend with General Izzi (WESLEY SNIPES) plotting to overthrow him, mainly because by law Akeem has no male heirs to succeed him in the future. But the King has just learned that he actually does in the form of American Lavelle Junson (JERMAINE FOWLER), the 30-year-old son of Mary (LESLIE JONES) with whom Akeem had a one-night fling before meeting Lisa.
Realizing the riches they could potentially inherit, Lavelle travels to Zamunda with his mom and Uncle Reem (TRACY MORGAN) to be trained in the way of being a prince, including an arranged marriage with General Izzi's daughter, Bopoto (TEYANA TAYLOR). But with Lavelle more interested in his royal hairdresser, Mirembe (NOMZAMO MBATHA), it's uncertain whether those nuptials will take place and if Izzi will take that personally.
- OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
There are plenty of old sayings about fathers and sons such as "When you teach your son, you teach your son's son." Then there's "By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong," "Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds" and the more ominous "The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children."
Movies, of course, also feature such quotable father-son lines. Among the most notable are "If you build it, he will come" and "Luke, I am your father." Many films, though, focus on the far simpler "Like father, like son" mantra and that's certainly the case in "Coming 2 America" the long-in-coming sequel to the 1988 comedy "Coming To America."
In all transparency, I haven't seen the original film since its release, so my memories of it are hazy at best, although I recall it at the time being inferior to Eddie Murphy's earlier hits such as "48 Hours," "Trading Places" and "Beverly Hills Cop."
Even so, I understand it holds a special place in many viewers' hearts, so I imagine they'll be approaching the flick with equal amounts of eager anticipation and worry that the creative types might mess things up and stain their fond memories of the original.
While I can't directly compare the two offerings due to that vast amount of time since I viewed the first film, I can say that it's an okay diversion in our pandemic times, but clearly won't go down as anywhere near the best of Murphy's work. And that's mainly because he's mostly been relegated to secondary character status following the "like father, like son" story thrust.
Having gone against the wishes of his king father (James Earl Jones) back in the 1980s, Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Murphy) went to America and found himself a bride in Lisa (Shari Headley). Now, thirty years later, they have three daughters (played by KiKi Layne, Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love), but with the King on his deathbed (and then in an upright casket, still alive, for his "I want to attend my funeral while I'm alive" farewell), things look daunting for Akeem as he doesn't have a male heir. And based on Zamunda law, his oldest daughter, Meeka, can't ascend to the throne as queen.
Enter the plot twist of Akeem learning that right before he met Lisa all those years ago, his royal assistant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), arranged for one-night sowing of the royal oats stand that, unbeknownst to Akeem (or Lisa, or pretty much anyone else) resulted in a woman named Mary (Leslie Jones) ending up pregnant with his child.
With General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) itching to get rid of the new King, Akeem and Semmi return to America where they meet Mary, her now 30-year-old son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), and his outspoken Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).
With thoughts of grandeur and riches in their minds, they return to Zamunda for some prince training for the new heir, along with an arranged marriage to Izzi's daughter (Teyana Taylor). But like father, like son, Lavelle is more interested in a non-royal, hairdresser Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha), while Akeem has assumed his father's role as the obstinate stick in the mud.
It's too bad that screenwriters Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield and director Craig Brewer didn't opt for something more original than simply copying much of the original and reconfiguring it here and there, including having Murphy and Hall likewise getting the heavy makeup treatment to reprise their sidelight comedy characters from the first time around. But that's usually the way of the world of sequels, although at least those responsible realize that in a brief bit where Mirembe and Lavelle discuss such cinematic offerings with a bit of wink-wink, faux disdain.
All of that said, if you loved the original, I imagine you'll be entertained by what's offered. I just wish more novelty would have been infused into the proceedings and that Murphy could have somehow tapped into the fresh fun of his early work back in the early to mid-'80s rather than becoming a secondary part. But like original, like sequel, I guess that's just the way it goes. "Coming 2 America" rates as a 5 out of 10.
Reviewed March 2, 2021 / Posted March 5, 2021
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