I’m going to get right into it: Coming 2 America leans hard into nostalgia. It’s inescapable, due to the nature in which the creative team decided to leverage it. The intro text, the filming techniques, the humor; it all leans hard into the 1988 aesthetic of the original. As you can imagine, it both works in its favor and restricts its potential.
Here’s the gist: roughly 30 years after the original, Eddie Murphy’s prince Akeem becomes king, following the death of his father. It’s here that we get the Zamunda setting of the film in Africa for around 20 minutes, much of which is a retread of old material. Then we’re whisked away to America for a brief moment, which focuses on Jermaine Fowler: Akeem’s illegitimate son and potential heir to the throne. Then were back in Zamunda again! And back to America! Then back in Zamunda one final time.
This whiplash is weird, as there are multiple “flashback” interludes with classic footage; like the old film is somehow lost to time and we could never see it again as a primer for the sequel. The nostalgia focus is completely on the nose. By the time Akeem’s son is required to “earn his right to be a prince,” the entire narrative has lost my interest. You can basically guess where it’s all going to go from there, as the hints are heavily nudged in front of you at every turn.
But it is a comedy after all, and occasionally it had me laughing at loud. Yes, Murphy and Arsenio Hall play multiple characters again. But Wesley Snipes, as usual, is on point, and steals the show. The man is a comedic genius, and could have even been the focus of this entire film. Tracy Morgan, possibly adlibbing his entire bit part, is another bright spot. As much as I’m ragging on the retreads, many of the jokes still work. MCDowell’s, the McDonald’s ripoff parody, is just as relevant as it was 30 plus years ago, as is a lot of the banter between Hall and Murphy’s characters.
Coming 2 America is all over the place. It never really gets to focus on any one person, to its detriment. With a tighter focus without so many characters thrown in to inflate the budget, it could have been a great follow-up. Instead it feels mostly superfluous, mixed with flashes of ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s melodrama. It’s not a complete waste for us, but given how little we get to see of Eddie Murphy these days, it does feel like a waste of his talents.