Film in review: “Coming 2 America”

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The Winonan’s film reporter rates “Coming 2 America” 3.5/5 stars.

Noah Mruz, film reviewer

Sequels like “Empire Strikes Back,” “The Dark Knight,” or “American Psycho 2” come out and surpass the original with their storytelling and sense of adventure. Other sequels make you look at the original in a more critical light.
In an era where remakes and sequels to 80s classics are becoming more and more constant, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the 1988 classic “Coming to America” now has a second chapter. The original film is an amazing comedy that follows a young prince from a wealthy African country as he journeys to America to find a woman he connects with before his arranged marriage. A simple, yet hilarious film that still holds up today (and that I HIGHLY recommend.)
So now that “Coming 2 America” has released on Amazon Prime Video, it bears the question, how good is it? While the story of the film is not anything to amaze viewers, the comedy and acting are where the film’s biggest lapse from the original is.
Let’s address the biggest problem with sequels to films from decades before. “Coming 2 America” follows the now King Akeem of Zamunda (Eddie Murphy) as he finds out he has an illegitimate child from his first adventure in Queens. Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) set out to turn this son into a prince so that he can one day be king, despite Akeem already having three daughters who could take up the throne. The plot here is fairly basic, but not to its detriment. The plot of the original was not anything too crazy and was fairly easy to understand.
The problem with the plot is its predictability, especially to those who have seen the original. Some conflicts in the film have major plot implications, then are resolved in one scene as if they were just a minor inconvenience rather than a life-or-death problem. Overall it’s a fun, yet safe plot that’s pretty bare-bones and basic.
It’s hard to separate this film from the original as the references are so plentiful. Some of the best comedic moments in the film are when characters from the original movie appear to crack jokes for a scene.
When new characters are shown cracking jokes, sometimes they hit well, but most of the jokes come off as predictable. If there was something to blame here, I would put my money on the rating of the film going from R in the original, to PG-13 in the sequel. Stand-out moments from the first movie couldn’t be allowed anywhere near this film, and that’s where it feels comedic value is lost. Did I still laugh out loud at moments in this film? Yes, c’mon, it’s Eddie Murphy. Were there times I sighed at a joke I could see coming? Yes, sadly. Is the movie still funny? Yes again. Although the funniest moments are with the characters of the first film, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t funny, it was just some lost potential with these new characters and interactions.
As we should all know, Eddie Murphy is a terrific actor, comedic or not. Case in point: “Dolemite is my Name”. Murphy also loves to play multiple characters in his films. He brings back several characters he and Arsenio Hall played in the original, and it’s as if he never got out of the make-up for them. Murphy does a great job playing off of himself in a genius way.
Other actors like Leslie Jones and Jermaine Fowler fit very well as new additions to the film and create impactful moments when they need to. It’s a great acting job all around, with Murphy and Hall as standouts for their excellent acting off of themselves.
So, where does “Coming 2 America” lay? Closer to the “Dark Knight”, or to “American Psycho 2”? I’d say closer to the “Dark Knight”, but not by much.
Although the film doesn’t do anything poorly, some moments feel half-baked and from a film cookie cutter. If you’re a fan of the original, this is a great sequel that will have you remember moments from the original.
As a stand-alone film, it relies too heavily on moments from the first film to be anything great. I am giving “Coming 2 America” a 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you haven’t seen “Coming to America” please do. Both films are available with Amazon Prime and are a fun journey through and through.