By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, newly-crowned Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York – where it all began. “Coming 2 America” is full of adventures, jokes and a new cast of characters, as Murphy and Hall reunite to travel to New York—but this time under quite different circumstances.
In the original film, the 1988 “Coming to America,” Prince Akeem Joffer eschews the bride that his parents have chosen for him and he runs away to New York. While in New York, Akeem and his buddy, Semmi, live in squalor and work menial jobs at a fast-food joint to make ends meet—even though they are rich. After many shenanigans, and scenes where Murphy plays a few different characters at the same time, Akeem woos a new bride played by Shari Headley.
Thirty-three years later the sequel, “Coming 2 America,” follows Prince Akeem as he is set to become King of Zamunda. He discovers he has a son he never knew about in America – a street savvy Queens native named Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). Honoring his royal father’s (James Earl Jones) dying wish to groom this son as the crown prince, Akeem and Semmi set off to America once again.
It seems that Akeem and Leslie Jones, (who refers to Akeem as “my African”), created a son as he was gallivanting in Queens during a drunken stupor 33 years ago. He is charged with bringing Lavelle back to Zamunda, lest he must go to war with General Izzi, played by Wesley Snipes. As a result, Akeem is poised to marry his son off to the General’s daughter, but as with most romances, as it was with Akeem and his appointed bride in the first film, Lavelle is smitten by one of Akeem’s employees who serves as the royal barber.
Lavelle (who is referred to as the “bastard brother from America”) and his newfound love run back to Queens, when he learns that he has been chosen as a pawn. Lavelle has struggled with acceptance, since he hadn’t grown up with a father and hadn’t really felt established in any accepted profession. So, back to Queens goes Akeem and he ultimately brings back Lavelle and half of the Queens population to Zamunda for a royal wedding.
“Coming 2 America” is a fun and funny movie for the times, even though there are many throwbacks to the original. Gladys Knight, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa are among the musical acts that jazz up an opening scene celebration. Jones, as Lavelle’s mother, Mary, brings a Queens flavor to the party. The entire film continues or expands the original with a mix of looking back on past situations and putting a 2020 spin on them. It also upholds the customs of African royalty for those who may have forgotten that both Kings and Queens rule on that continent.
Additionally, some situations presented in the film look to address or redress issues of misogyny and the restraints put on women, promote rituals associated with manhood, as well as attempt to be politically correct in some cases. A cameo from the barbershop is just as funny more than three decades later. And Hall as the perm-laden, slick talking preacher still brings about the laughs. Remarkably, many of the cast members look as if they haven’t aged a bit!
Ruth Carter, who was the first African-American woman to win an Oscar for costume design for the 2018 “Black Panther,” has put her award-winning stamp on the colorful garments that add color to a presentation that is already colorful—in more ways than one.
Other cast members, among others, include Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, John Amos, Teyana Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Michael Blackson, Trevor Noah, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha and one of Murphy’s daughters Bella Murphy.
“Coming 2 America,” with a few hits from John Legend, streams on Amazon Prime Video on March 5. Take a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5lrkdvEZGg&feature=youtu.be. And don’t forget to sit through the credits.