Coming 2 America: An unneeded and unwanted sequel

Khadisha Thomas reviews Eddie Murphy’s cinematic return as Prince Akeen Joffer in an unimaginative rehash which hangs on nostalgia.

Official trailer: ‘Coming 2 America’

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.


King Rocker: A fitting tribute to two cult Birmingham giants

Photographed by Michael Cumming: Robert Lloyd and Stewart Lee in front of the Kong statue

Samuel Hornsby reviews the new Michael Cumming documentary about singer Robert Lloyd and an 18-foot statue of King Kong.

I had never heard of Robert Lloyd or The Nightingales before watching ‘King Rocker’, but it made me want to. That seems to be the mark of a good music documentary.

Comedian Stewart Lee hosts an exploration into the life and works of Birmingham underground post-punk musician Robert Lloyd whilst using the story of a rejected giant statue of King Kong which once adorned the city as a mirrored comparison of underappreciation. Lee also weaves in his own personal stories and experiences with these two outcasts of Birmingham to complete the through-line.

Michael Cumming knows how to treat misfits and oddities. He’s done it many times before by framing eccentric characters in several comedy shows over his career including ‘Brass Eye’ and ‘Toast of London’. His previous direction of Lee on the show ‘Comedy Vehicle’ also shows he’s learnt how to best display the comedian and get across his dry, sarcastic humour in a way that will resonate with audiences. In addition to this, even though Lee is not directly comedic in the film, the way in which he recounts the tales of King Kong’s statue, laces in his own memories and interacts with Lloyd, all keep the captivating flavour that works so well in his stand-up sets.

Throughout most of the film the main focus, Robert Lloyd, appears to be the sort of bloke you’d stumble into sat in a pub talking shit into his own pint of ale. Cumming and Lee excellently highlight the undiscovered brilliance of Lloyd’s catalogue and life story to an enthralling effect. They frame him as warm and charismatic but at the same time down-to-earth and fairly normal. This works in the films favour as images of him chatting with Lee in a greasy spoon café or pottering in his kitchen showing off the assortment of pills he has to take work as great contrasts to the unique music and the witty stories placed about the film.

Equally as captivating and intriguing is the story of the Kong statue. The 18-foot monster was built by the pop art sculptor Nicholas Monro as a commission for the centre of Birmingham as part of an arts initiative called the ‘Sculpture for Public Places Scheme’. Lee lays out the story of the fibreglass beasts’ conception and eventual rejection by almost everyone who it found its hands in.

The parallel stories are further stitched together through the use of short, crude animated flashbacks displaying different occurrences from Lloyd’s past with a cartoon depiction of the giant ape standing in for Lloyd. It is a great additional way to help solidify the thematic bond between the two subjects of the film which at first may appear to have very little connection.
The end result is a heartfelt low-budget documentary made with a lot of passion and love for its premise.

King Rocker: Official Trailer

King Rocker is currently available for streaming on Now TV and Sky Go.