Coming 2 America (2021)

CRAIG BREWER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5

USA, 2021. , , , . Story by , , , Screenplay by , Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, based on characters created by . Cinematography by . Produced by , Eddie Murphy. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by , , .

A sequel isn’t such an outlandish idea even if has been more than thirty years since the release of one of ‘s most popular comedies, it is after all one of his most enduring and beloved films and, coming along in the age of throwback nostalgia as it does, a follow-up is not going to stand out in an already overcrowded market of reboots and remakes; unfortunately, what he comes up with is little more than a reunion of most of the original cast (painfully missing the lovely presence of the late Madge Sinclaire) and a lot of silly spoofing of popular culture.

Murphy’s Akeem has been enjoying the princely life with his beloved wife Lisa (a still radiant ), but his aged father (a still very spry ) reminds him that his time to ascend the throne is approaching and he must deal with the succession crisis: Akeem has only daughters and Zamunda only permits men to be its ruler, an antiquated tradition of the kind that he vowed to do away with when his marriage shook up his traditional society so many years ago. In a spasm of uncanny coincidence, Semmi () reveals that Akeem actually does have a son, a boy born to a woman (a hilarious Leslie Jones) with whom Akeem had a tryst in Queens while completely high on drugs, so the prince travels to America once again to find this young man, named Lavelle (), and bring him and his mother back to Africa. This only leads to more complications, as Lavelle must pass “princely tests” to prove himself worthy of the throne, while a neighbouring military leader (played by a spirited ) is threatening war depending on whether the two countries make an alliance in marriage, and Akeem’s daughters are not taking too lightly to this usurper coming along and ruining their own hopes of succession.

Unfortunately, these complications are not enough to match up to the stakes of the original film and, after a fun beginning, everything starts to sag thanks to far more emphasis being placed on satire and callbacks to the first film than on making things urgent in the here and now (where is Eriq La Salle when you need him, is basically what I am saying). There’s an easygoing, good-natured vibe happening that, when combined with a sparkling cast of terrific actors (also including the delights of , , and John Amos) and a host of very welcome cameos (Salt ‘N Pepa, , En Vogue, Colin Jost poking good-natured fun at his image), contribute to a feeling of being more at a party than at a movie, to the point that it would have actually been better to just watch all these wonderful folks rock out to the music while decked in Ruth E. Carter’s eye-popping costumes (which match and outdo Deborah Nadoolman’s Oscar-nominated work in the original) for two hours than actually try for a cohesive plot.

Murphy is still every bit the star, once again putting himself and Hall through impressive, labour intensive feats of makeup artistry that allow them to play a host of characters with whom we are very happy to be reunited.  He doesn’t take center stage enough in the plot, giving much more screen time Fowler than the younger man earns (for all his comic timing, he registers very little in the role.  Murphy gives off a sense of kindness and generosity to go along with his usual knack for expert, underplayed comedic timing, but it’s a shame that so welcome a return to this world turns out to be so weak and unconvincing an experience.

Academy Award Nomination: Best Makeup

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