COMING 2 AMERICA Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tony’s back! And he’s older than ever…
There are plenty of movies that never needed a sequel.

Far too many of them got one anyway.

With Coming To America though, there was always the potential for a sequel, but arguably, it either had to be made relatively soon after the success of the original, or roughly now, when a significant amount of time has gone by, to allow for character arcs and characterisation changes. Coming To America: The Next Generation is a viable idea in itself, and the sequel gives us the chance to revisit some of the original characters, while adding a new layer to the central dilemma.

For those just joining us – Coming To America was one of Eddie Murphy’s most successful comedies when he was the hottest thing in comedy. As Prince Akeem of Zamunda (an African nation of staggering wealth and luxury, and extremely rigid traditions), it cast him very much against type. He’d been best known for street-smart characters whose manner often led people to underestimate them (like Axel Foley in Beverley Hills Cop, a role mind-blowingly first offered to Sylvester Stallone. Sure, let that sit in your head a minute). Akeem was formal, precise, well-spoken and always courteous, the very epitome of a royal prince – and as such, there was an admirable strength to his character when he staged a polite rebellion against his father Joffe Jaffer (James Earl Jones, adding gravitas to the parental pressure), going to America in a search for true love, rather than the convenient throne-mate available at home.

Through the course of the movie, Akeem find and falls in love with Lisa McDowell, true-hearted daughter of a Queens fast food magnate, despite the urging towards quick and easy answers from his companion, Semmi (Arsenio Hall). Hoorah – feelgood ending, lots and lots of cameo roles for both Murphy and Hall, and a happily inverted Cinderella story that lit up the 80s with lurve.

It’s…been a while since the 80s. Forty years and counting. That’s what makes it fun to pop back to Zamunda and check out how the earnest but self-aware Akeem is doing, decades later.

When Coming 2 America opens, Akeem is still Prince Charlesing his way towards the throne occupied by his stubbornly still-living parent. But a lot has changed. Akeem and Lisa have had three daughters, each of whom promises to be kickass and clever and a credit to Zamunda.


But the royal line of Zamunda is a total sausagefest back to the beginning of time. No woman has ever succeeded to the throne. In fact, having three daughters and no son is not only considered a judgment on Akeem’s manhood, it’s the source of parental pressure from his father, and warlike intent from nearby leader, General Izzi (Wesley freaking Snipes playing an agreeable second fiddle in this comedy sequel).

Conveniently then, Semmi has a secret. It’s a pretty spoilerific secret, but nothing about what follows in either this review or the rest of the movie makes sense without you knowing it.



There’s still time to back out now if you don’t want a mega-spoiler…

OK, now it’s on your head if you read stuff you didn’t want to read. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Akeem has a son. An American son, conceived with a sex worker while he was accidentally as high as his own moral principles – an arrangement engineered by Semmi when they first went to America, so that Semmi too could get his end well and truly away.

Akeem has never had any memory of the event. But now it comes…well, we hesitate to say flooding back to him, but you get the idea…

With a plan hatched for Akeem and Semmi to go back to America to find the ‘rightful’ heir to the throne of Zamunda (a technicality anchored both in sexism and in the principle of ‘first come, first crowned’), Joffe sees fit to boogie his way off this mortal coil, holding his own funeral before he goes.

Is that just an excuse to trot out an absolute galaxy of black stars to pay tribute to him?

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

Is there anything wrong with that at all? Oh hell no. En Vogue are here. Salt and Pepper are here. Gladys Knight is here. Morgan Freeman is on MC duties. It’s a joyfest of the highest calibre, and if you could bring them all together to perform for you before you died, you absolutely would. But as Akeem becomes King of Zamunda, the mission to find his son seems more urgent than ever.

Yes, there’s a certain filmic forcing of this narrative, with the 21st century audience yelling “But your daughters, though!” at the screen. But there’s a purpose to the sexist quest too – if the original Coming To America was the quest of a young prince going outside his family’s wishes to find the love of his life (which, as we know from our daily news sources, always goes well), Coming 2 America is a story about how the zeal for change which infuses us when we’re young can become old and cold as we age, and the urge not to disappoint those around us and our families becomes a stronger force in our lives.

Akeem in the 21st century is a typical dad in some respects – always hoping to be cool, and chasing the ways to get there, always hopelessly out of time or off trend with his daughters. But more seriously, obedience to the history and traditions of his country has become largely more important to him than the feelings of his wife and daughters.

So – he and Semmi head back to America, and back to Queens, to find the new generation. Leslie Jones is always a quality addition to any movie, and as Akeem’s one-time liaison turned Mother of the Prince, she’s never short of excellent here, giving the movie the shot in the arm and the kick up the butt it needs. Akeem’s son, LaVelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) is a general grifter and ticket tout, and his journey to Zamunda to be trained in the ways of Princehood is the backdrop for much of the rest of the movie.

The merging of the Jaffer and Junson clans is often fun, with the likes of Jones’ Mary Junson and Queen Lisa (Sahri Headley) getting on like a house on fire after some initial coldness, and the new Prince being endlessly teased by his new sisters. Where things get sticky though is that LaVelle, much like his father, has ideas about choosing his own bride, as opposed to being strategically married to General Izzi’s daughter.

Choosing his own destiny leads to confrontation, and an ending that should have been obvious from the start, but which punches above the weight of obvious expectation. And ultimately, it’s the last third of the movie that turns Coming 2 America into more than just a warmed-over re-hash of the gags that either made Coming To America funny, or made it a set of weird moments with occasional gross-out add-ons, depending on your point of view. If you liked the original Coming To America, you might find the first two-thirds of this movie something of a comment on your own life and changing attitudes. The final third though offers you the hope of re-connection with the spark of integrity and self-possession which gave the original its charm.

Now – many of the original gags are recycled here. The bathing stewards who go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the royal genitals are clean? They’re here, but they also get a turnabout-is-fair-play makeover when Leslie Jones’ Mary joins the royal family. The barbershop characters played entirely by Murphy and Hall make a return, and there’s enough nous in the script to have them tellingly remark that they preferred Akeem when he was a prince. Reverend Brown, the godawful pervert pastor is still here, and even Randy Watson and his band, Sexual Chocolate make an appearance – albeit one that’s slightly crammed in more or less because a Coming To America movie wouldn’t be a Coming To America movie without them.

But all these are gracenotes to anchor us in the same Queens that Akeem first visited, even if the place itself has changed beyond all recognition. In a sense, their inclusion is an underscoring of the point of the movie too – Akeem has likewise changed entirely from the young man he was into something unrecognisable, and it takes a return trip to America, as well as America’s coming to live with him in Zamunda, to help him find that younger, more rebellious self again.

So, is Coming 2 America a good movie?

On balance, yes. It’s a great stroll down Memory Lane for fans of the original, sure. But more than that, it deals with the modern world as it is, and shows quite how primitive sexist power structures now seem, and how they will last only as long as there are powerful people prepared to hold them in place against the will of the modern world. It’s a touching story of fathers who want the best for their children, and it’s also an odd-couple comedy, with plenty of fish out of all possible water. It brings its old character comedy to bear, but gives a new generation – Jones and Fowler in particular, but also including Tracy Morgan as LaVelle’s ‘Uncle Reem’ – a place to play and invigorate the core concept with some joyous new energy. It’s most definitively a post-Black Panther version of a Coming To America story – so much so that great swathes of the plot, including the notion of an heir to the kingdom that was kept secret for decades, make their way effortlessly from the Marvel movie to the Murphy version. And at its core, it’s a movie about finding the strength to be your true self, and changing the world around you into somewhere you can live with both pride and love.

Coming 2 America could well have been a horrible, terrible, truly bad idea. Instead, it’s a sneaky little heartwarmer that touches all the bases of the original movie but takes the whole idea forward for both an older and a younger generation, with its tongue mostly in its cheek, and the sense to know when to drop the funny and let moments stand on their dramatic value.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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