Khadisha Thomas reviews Eddie Murphy’s cinematic return as Prince Akeen Joffer in an unimaginative rehash which hangs on nostalgia.
The 80s classic that starred Eddie Murphy as wide-eyed African prince, Akeem Joffer, frolicking the streets of New York in search of a wife, is back! However, this time 33 years later the Prince is no longer a prince, he is a king, and the King isn’t searching for a wife. He is searching for his illegitimate son.
‘Coming 2 America’ was released on Amazon Prime in March. The sequel to the successful romantic comedy sees old faces return such as Arsenio Hall as Semmi, the King’s trusted sidekick and Shari Headley as Lisa, the King’s love interest-turned-queen. New faces also emerge in this movie, faces that many may already know from urban popular culture. Singer Teyana Taylor who rose to fame as the dancer in Kanye West’s fame video and rapper Rick Ross are just some of the African American modern-day stars to make an appearance. Despite this mixing of generations and where ‘Coming to America’ stands in black entertainment history, the follow-up movie misses the mark.
The plot seemed rushed and would have benefitted from further development. In this film, King Akeem’s father passes away and by way of Zamunda tradition Akeem needs to have a male heir to his throne. Unfortunately for him he only has daughters. Despite his eldest being more than capable and worthy of assuming this role, Akeem’s obligation to patriarchy leads him to New York to find his long-lost son Lavelle. Lavelle is a struggling yet ambitious salesperson, living in a dingy apartment with his whacky family. After all the time that has passed since the first movie, this would have been the perfect moment to take us on a trip down memory lane. I would have liked to see King Akeem reminisce more as he passes the shops, bars and people he met for the first time in New York. Apart from the brief reunion in the barbershop, McDowell’s and a reference to the Knicks football game date, that link to the curious and impressionable experiences of young Akeem isn’t made.
I would have also liked to see King Akeem and Lavelle form a father and bond. Perhaps Lavelle could show his father what he has been doing in all these years of absence. There were grounds for a more in-depth story here, but it was wasted. It felt like King Akeem just hopped on a plane picked up his son and flew back to Zamunda.
Once on African soil, the movie does not get much better. Although the African outfits are beautiful no number of vibrant colours, feathers and beads can hide how terrible the accents are in this movie. They also cannot hide Hollywood’s fantastical obsession with Africa being a land of wild beasts roaming. Even Lavelle’s royal task of plucking a lion’s whisker seems quite ridiculous. The only good thing about this movie is that it touches on the misogynistic ideologies that still exist in Africa. By the end of the movie, King Akeem appoints his daughter as his heir which shows this much-needed change in thinking.
The full circle effect of Lavelle falling in love with an African woman against the political trajectories of his father in the same way that King Akeem fell in love with a working-class woman from New York, is satisfying. However, it is a bit unbelievable that the characters can develop a real romantic interest over hair styling…
Overall ‘Coming 2 America’ is another example of an old-school favourite dug up dusted off and polished in a 2021 lacklustre shine. The comedy did not live up to the hype and like many reboots of movies from back in the day, it should have never happened.
Coming 2 America is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.