COMING 2 AMERICA (2021) has “2” things working against it.
It’s a sequel, and it’s a comedy.
I’m telling you, the hardest movies to make these days are comedies. Good ones are really hard to find.
That being said, this sequel to COMING TO AMERICA (1988), a John Landis comedy which starred Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, while it struggles to be both funny and tell a worthwhile story, it at least remains playful throughout. I had fun watching COMING 2 AMERICA. I just didn’t laugh all that much.
COMING 2 AMERICA, available now on Prime Video, reunites Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in a movie for the first time in thirty years, as they last starred together in HARLEM NIGHTS (1989). As a big fan of Eddie Murphy, he’s the main reason I wanted to check out COMING 2 AMERICA. I remember liking COMING TO AMERICA back in 1988, although I wouldn’t list it as one of my favorite Murphy movies. And Murphy was outstanding in the recent DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (2019), a Netflix original which I thought was Murphy’s best work in years. While I didn’t expect the same quality here in this sequel, I was excited to see Murphy in a movie again all the same.
And that’s pretty much how COMING 2 AMERICA played out. As a movie, it’s okay. The fun was watching Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, as well as Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan, John Amos, and James Earl Jones on screen. All of these folks have their moments, although none of these moments are all that uproarious.
The story told in COMING 2 AMERICA is rather simple and not terribly important, other than a nod to equality for women here in 2021 which was nice to see but predictable.
Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) becomes King Akeem of the African kingdom of Zamunda when his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) passes away. And he rules this kingdom with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters, which poses a problem for Akeem. He needs a male heir to take over the throne after him. When he learns he has a bastard son living in America, he decides to return there to find him. So, Akeem and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to New York and there find Akeem’s son Lavelle (Jermain Fowler) who agrees to return with them to Zamunda, where he learns the ways of becoming a prince. Meanwhile, in the film’s only relevant moments, Lisa attempts to point out to Akeem that he was the one who was supposed to make sweeping changes in the kingdom but instead has become like his father and changed nothing, and she points out that their oldest daughter has been training her whole life to succeed her father in leading the kingdom, but he has bypassed her because she’s a woman. As one would expect in a comedy sequel, these words do make their mark on Akeem and he eventually comes around to 2021 thinking.
Again, COMING 2 AMERICA is likable enough, but it just isn’t all that funny. By far, the funniest parts are the barbershop scenes, where both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio hall reprise their old barbershop characters from the first movie. These scenes are funny, very funny, but there’s only a couple.
Eddie Murphy is enjoyable to watch, but the role hardly gives him anything to do. In fact, he’s almost the straight man throughout to other characters’ antics, and Eddie Murphy as the straight man to others’ comedy is never a good thing. If you want to see Murphy really strutting his stuff, you want to check out DOLEMITE IS MY NAME.
Likewise, Arsenio Hall’s moments are also few and far between. The same can be said for Wesley Snipes as General Izzi, who had never made a movie with Eddie Murphy before DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, and now he’s appeared in two movies with Murphy in two years.
Tracy Morgan probably fares the best as Lavelle’s uncle Reem. Then again, Morgan can just stand there and by his presence alone crack me up. Morgan made me laugh quite a few times in this movie, even though he’s been far funnier in other roles.
Jermaine Fowler gets lots of screen time as Lavelle, and most of the movie involves his character as he struggles to become prince. Fowler is very good, and Lavelle is a likable character, but like the rest of the movie, not all that humorous.
Leslie Jones does enjoy some fine funny moments as Lavelle’s mother Mary, and Shari Headley adds class to the story as Akeem’s wife and queen Lisa. Nomzamo Mbatha, Bella Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s real life daughter), and Akiley Love all do well as Akeem’s daughters.
Kiki Layne delivers one of the best performances in the film as Meeka, the woman who is tasked with helping Lavelle learn how to become a prince, and of course the two characters fall in love.
Screen veterans James Earl Jones and John Amos also each have their moments. You can’t go wrong with the cast in this one. Heck, even Morgan Freeman shows up!
COMING 2 AMERICA was directed by Craig Brewer, who also directed DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, which is a far superior film to this one. Not that it matters much, since this is a comedy, but the CGI effects here aren’t very good, both on the African animals which clearly look fake, and on scenes where Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are made to look younger.
Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield wrote the screenplay, and all I can say is if I wanted to make a funny comedy, I wouldn’t be hiring these guys. Not based on this screenplay, anyway.
COMING 2 AMERICA is an amiable comedy sequel that simply isn’t funny enough to justify a glowing recommendation, even with the likes of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in the cast. At the end of the day, it’s just all rather subpar.
Which, unfortunately, is just….