I enjoyed Coming to America (1988) as much as the next person. Yes, there were some moments in that I would have preferred not to have seen. Why some films, be they comedies like this one, or anything else, needs to have blatant nudity in them is beyond me. Yet, that is not the point of the film. Instead, it is meant, in that quaint 1980s fashion, to underscore racial stereotypes while also talking about the importance of making your own way in life instead of relying on tradition. Naturally, the main characters come to the United States where, in those days, people still believed in the ideal of the self-made man. Some of these ideas are anathema to a practicing Catholic, though, as the saying goes, God helps those who help themselves. The Church teaches us to rely on God, that everything we are given is a grace from Him, and these notions are reinforced by traditions stretching back to the time of the Apostles. That was a long time ago, though the Church continually renews itself. This works well with Faith. Making sequels to films from over thirty years previously works less well, as you will see with this review of Coming 2 America (2021).
We return to the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda, and there is no Coming 2 America (if you will pardon the grammatical pun) for some time. We do so because all the familiar characters from the last film are there, including Prince Akeem Joffer’s (Eddie Murphy) father-in-law Cleo McDowell (John Amos), who has brought his McDowell’s fast-food corporation to Africa. This is a play on McDonald’s, by the way, and a joke from the previous iteration. Get ready for a lot of this if you watch the movie and are familiar with the first one. We also see the rest of the family that Prince Akeem has started with his bride from before, Princess Lisa (Shari Headley). Their children are all daughters. This would not be a problem except for the fact that tradition says that a male must lead Zamunda. Still, this is an issue seemingly for down the road when, on the day of Prince Akeem and Princess Lisa’s thirtieth wedding anniversary, Prince Akeem’s father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) summons his son to his bedside. The king is dying, and his shaman has revealed that the prince had sired a son while in Queens all those years ago. Prince Akeem has no recollection of this night, though his best friend and aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) reveals the truth of the situation, much to Prince Akeem’s (and Princess Lisa’s) distaste. Making matters worse is the fact that if a male heir is not secured, the kingdom of Zamunda is set to go to General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the military dictator of the neighboring country of Nexdoria (get it?). He has also long pushed for his son to marry Prince Akeem’s oldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne), thus cementing the bonds between the two countries. Few are eager for this outcome. The situation gets an added boost when King Jaffe dies in the middle of his own funeral, having decided to have it while still living to see all the accolades with which people would honor him. This makes Akeem king, and free to return to the United States and New York city to find his son. After consulting with the same people from the barbershop from the last movie, he learns that the person they are looking for is Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). He makes his living doing a number of hustles, including scalping tickets to the New York Knicks, and this is where King Akeem finds him. Lavelle does not take King Akeem seriously at first, though he is more convinced when he brings his would-be father to Lavelle’s mother, Mary (Leslie Jones). Soon thereafter, the entire family is brought to Zamunda, and King Akeem announces that the throne is now secure. Piqued, General Izzi demands that Lavelle marry his daughter. Seeing the possibility of an unwanted war, King Akeem agrees, though is able to stall for time with Lavelle needing to pass rituals and trials in order to prove himself worthy of the throne. While doing so, he falls in love with the royal groomer, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha). She gives Lavelle some insight into how Zamunda works, and with it he begins to pass the trials. Things are looking up for King Akeem until the party celebrating Lavelle being named his successor. During it, Lavelle overhears King Akeem and General Izzi conferring with each other about an arranged marriage. Feeling like this is not part of the plan, Lavelle and Mirembe leave, and plan to elope in Queens in New York. Queen Lisa is also angry with her husband for ruining their plans. It takes a heart-to-heart with Cleo, while King Akeem cleans the floor of a Zamundan McDowell’s, for the king to realize that he had been falling into the same trap his father had set for him when he was still prince. Thus, he leaves in time to make it to Lavelle and Mirembe’s ceremony, leaving Semmi and his daughters to hold off General Izzi, who has come to enforce the promise in the wake of Lavelle’s departure. Luckily, Semmi and the princesses are enough to save the kingdom. With the kingdom secure once more, King Akeem insists that Lavelle and Mirembe marry in Zamunda, and names Meeka the next in line for the throne. The end.
The point of Coming 2 America is to say, hey, remember all these things from the first film? Well, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall can still play those characters, is that not neat? Outside of that, as the plot synopsis would suggest, it is pretty much the same movie. Where it pales in comparison, aside from the lack of freshness, is in not being as funny today as it was in the 1980s. Though nostalgia can be dangerous, you watch the first one to remember that bygone era when a homeless Samuel L. Jackson with a shotgun could be subdued by an African prince with a mop. Nostalgia is dangerous, though, because it tends to get people stuck in the past. Only with God is there such a thing as timelessness. Not even His Catholic Church is timeless, or the Kingdom of Zamunda, or the original movie, though there are plenty of others out there that would suggest otherwise. As such, it is useful to be reminded in cinematic form that we are but transitory creatures. Where I depart with this film, aside from the fact that little of it is meant to be serious, is in the notion that breaking with tradition is a necessary rite of passage. Tradition does not have to be completely broken, though I can acknowledge that when it becomes too rigid it will break. Even the Church can agree with this principle. What I appreciate about my Faith is that these matters move slowly. The film is a bunch of nonsense.
I will say that Coming 2 America at least cuts out the blatant sexuality. The problem is that it is a silly, and ultimately unnecessary movie. I suppose actors need to work, and Eddie Murphy has not been involved in much over the past decade or so. I blame The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), but that is a discussion for a different day. If you must watch it, then there is nothing too objectionable about it. It is just kind of boring.