Review: Coming 2 America parallels original film with modern setting

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Vijay Viswanathan

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall re-create their classic characters in this fun-filled sequel to the 1988 hit “Coming to America.”

Vijay Viswanathan, Ad Manager

*This review contains minor spoiler for Coming 2 America

“Prepare the royal jet. We are going back to America!” They’re back! King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and royal adviser Semi (Arsenio Hall) return to their roles in this sequel to the 1988 movie “Coming to America.” They return to the United States after their initial, slightly odd and embarrassing trip to America, with a new mission: to find Akeem’s son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). 

Akeem is married to Lisa (Shari Headly) and has three daughters, which according to then-Prince  Akeem’s father, then-King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) is a complication. Akeem lives in the fictional African country of Zamunda, and tradition states that the heir to the Zamundan throne must be male. 

It also must be noted that for some reason, King Jaffe decided to have a funeral with him still alive. Why? Who knows? It’s incredibly extravagant, with a cameo from Morgan Freeman, and music from famous artists Gladys Knight and Salt-N-Peppa. 

From this point forward, complication after complication arises, resulting in absolute hilarity.  Lavelle and his mother Mary Junson (Leslie Jones) create all sorts of headaches for the Zamundan royal family, Reem Junson (Tracy Morgan) creating headaches for Semi,  King Akeem shows an outstanding lack of foresight about enemies, especially the leader of the neighboring country, Nexdoria (a very fun play on words of the phase “Next Door”), named General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). Fans of Snipes will recognize him from the Blade movies. 

General Izzi is the son of Colonel Izzi from the original movie. Izzi is also known as “the tamer of lions” and other names, mostly by his troops. Izzi is slightly crazy, I mean, he does show an incredible amount of violence toward a picture of King Akeem. He also tells the kids at school in Nexdoria (taught by him) to “go play with their rocket launchers,” completing the aspect of crazy for Izzi. He is also quite passive-aggressive, uttering lines such as “If you had married her, our countries would be united, putting an end to decades of suffering for all our people,” followed immediately by “I came here for blood.” Izzi then hilariously de-escalates the situation by explaining to Akeem that he means marriage blood. 

Throughout the course of the movie, Hall also plays multiple characters, including a witch doctor, called “Baba,” and a character from the original film, named Reverend Brown. Baba has his moments and prompts General Izzi to ask at one point, “Who’s grandma is this,” after Baba pops into the royal hall. Reverend Brown is the pastor of a church in New York City and is an interesting character. King Akeem and Reverend Brown only meet each other for the first time during this movie, since the original only had Akeem and Semi attending a fund-rasier hosted by Reverend Brown.

The comedic timing of the Junsons makes for laughs and giggles all around. Mary decides to “borrow” from Queen Lisa’s closet, which creates tension between the two women, and then General Izzi shows up with his usual over-the-top entrance, complete with a full dancing army. 

My main issue is that the movie runs pretty much the same plot as the original movie. The 1988 movie ran the plot that Akeem is being forced into an arranged marriage, but he wants to marry for love, so he gets out of the arranged marriage and heads off to New York City to find the woman of his dreams. He does, but goes through events that become progressively more and more embarrassing (including singing as loudly as he can on the streets of New York City very early in the morning after a date with Lisa, and receiving multiple angry exclamations from irritated people attempting to sleep), before finally being confronted by his father and taken forcefully back to Zamunda, where somehow, Lisa is there and Akeem and her marry. 

Another issue is that the movie does contain a few jokes that toe the line between being funny and being stereotypical. The movie also tackles the idea of political correctness in one of the stupidest ways possible. By telling a whole series of jokes that are politically incorrect. For example, when Akeem returns to New York City and the “Land of Queens,” (as the New York City borough of Queens is known in Zamunda), we re-meet the barbershop quartet, three barbershop employees and one outsider who fight over the tiniest of things, such as “Just how good was Joe Louis?” Mr. Clarence is the owner of the barbershop, along with employee Morris. The one outsider is Saul, an old Jewish man from an apartment upstairs. They make jokes, such as calling Akeem “Hotel Rwanda,” but as soon as a customer makes a slightly offensive joke, they force the customer out of the shop for the joke. (characters also played by Murphy and Hall) 

However, the movie does deviate from the plot of the original movie at times, including a very nice moment at the end of the movie where King Akeem changes the law in Zamunda to allow his oldest daughter, Princess Meeka Joffer (KiKi Layne) to take over the throne when King Akeem cannot rule the country any more.

Other cameos include Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost as the head of a company where Lavelle tries to find a job, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah, as a news anchor for the Zamundan news channel that has a name extremely similar to CNN, and that name is ZNN, or the Zamunda News Network. Rapper Rick Ross shows up for a quick minute as a commander in Nexdoria serving under General Izzi, and John Legend has a cameo in a post-credits scene.

All in all, Coming 2 America is a great movie with even better comedy, even if it does just place the plot of the original movie into a more modern setting. I give it an 8.5/10.