Amazon Prime Video's Coming 2 America: Nostalgia served cold

·Contributor
·4-min read

Streamer: Amazon Prime Video

Length: 110 minutes

Score: 2/5

The original Coming to America is one of those great, classic comedies from the 1980s. Starring a then red-hot Eddie Murphy and directed by the legendary John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Three Amigos), the film was an enormous hit, and remains something of a cult favourite among fans to this very day.

The idea of knocking out a sequel some 33 years later is not necessarily a bad one. The nostalgia dollar still looms large at the box office, and frankly, we could all use a laugh these days.

Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall)  Coming 2 America
Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) are back in Coming 2 America and... frankly, they don't look like they know why either. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video's Coming 2 America, however, is sadly not the film to deliver said chuckle-fest because frankly, it’s a bit of a shocker.

Coming 2 America revisits African Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) on the 30th anniversary of his marriage to Lisa (Shari Headley). All is not well in Zamunda, however, as King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) is about to join his ancestors, and before he dies tells Akeem he has a male heir in America.

This news doesn’t make anyone happy. Certainly not Lisa, or their three daughters or, indeed, the audience after a rather alarming flashback reveals Akeem was drugged and date raped by Mary Junson (Leslie Jones) when he was in no state of mind to consent and in fact had suppressed the entire memory of the traumatic incident.

Ha, ha, ha?

It’s understandable that the writers didn’t want to retcon Akeem into a pants man, and he needed a son for the plot to work, but was ‘comedy date rape’ really the best solution they could come up with?

Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) meets his his son, Lavelle Junso (Jermaine Fowler) in Coming 2 America
Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) continues the proud tradition of embarrassing his son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) by wearing goofy threads in public. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Anyway, Akeem and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) lob over to America to meet the “bastard son” Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and tell him the news that he is, in fact, a prince. He takes it pretty well, and he and Mary are happy to be treated to a level of luxury they’ve never seen before.

From there Coming 2 America basically becomes two films. One of them is a not very good remake of Coming to America but with the locations reversed, as American Lavelle begins to fall for wise royal groomer, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha).

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The other is a rather listless dirge about Akeem realising he’s become everything he once despised, and that he should maybe try to make positive changes, particularly for the women of Zamunda.

Things proceed as you’d expect, with lots of in-jokes and references to the original, including Murphy and Hall both playing numerous characters rendered Crypt Keeper-like with ghoulish old-age makeup.

Coming 2 America
Coming 2 America doesn't have a lot to recommend it, but the costumes are nice. So... yay? Photo: Amazon Prime Video

There’s some very occasional, modest fun to be had along the way, and a musical number featuring En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa is a welcome respite, but the simple fact of the matter is Coming 2 America just isn’t very good.

Eddie Murphy, who was so perfect in 2019’s Dolemite is My Name (by the same flippin’ director!), is forced into semi-straight man territory here and barely looks engaged. Newcomer Jermaine Fowler has a lot of charisma, but limited comedy chops, and consequently his part of the tale falls flat.

Look, all of these shortcomings - wonky writing, poor casting, rapey subplot - could have been forgiven (or at least forgotten) if the film had been funny, but there’s precious little to laugh at here.

You might squeeze out a few listless chuckles, perhaps even an apathetic guffaw, but ultimately Coming 2 America lands with a thud.

If you want to watch a good Eddie Murphy flick, just check out the original. Or watch Dolemite is My Name! Seriously, it’s everything this inert misfire wants to be.

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