Like many of you, I was hesitant to watch Coming 2 America, the 30-year sequel to the blockbuster comedy Coming To America. The original is a staple of American filmography, holding a locked position on the Top 5 Comedies of All Time lists for many people and for most Black Americans. Many of us can recite the movie line for line, we’ve adapted the looks of the characters for parties, and we’ve dutifully sat our children down to watch it so that they will not embarrass us by not knowing it as well as we do.
The original Coming To America is an almost perfect movie from start to finish, and it has stood the test of time. So, it was with a fervent prayer that star and producer Eddie Murphy had not messed this up that my SO (significant other) and I sat down and pressed play.
We should not have worried. We should have known Mr. Murphy would not have touched the iconic movie was he not assured he would get its sequel right. In fact, Mr. Murphy had been saying during the promotional push of the movie, that he, too, was aware of Coming To America’s place in the American lexicon and that he wouldn’t have made Coming 2 America if it didn’t hold up. About a quarter of the way through the movie, my SO turned to me and said, “This sh*t funny,” and we released our breath, let go of our fears, and enjoyed the movie. Throughout, I found myself thinking, “Well done. Well done. Well done.” Here are five reasons why:
It is no spoiler that the storyline of Coming 2 America revolves around Prince Akeem Joffer realizing he may have a son in America. This is a huge revelation, since, according to Zamundian law, only males can inherit the throne. And so, we travel with Akeem and his shady sidekick Semmi, from Zamunda, to America, to Zamunda again as they try to locate this man and prepare him to take his place as the next heir to the throne. Except … this is Prince Akeem we’re talking about. The man who flouted another Zamundian law 30 years earlier by leaving his yipping bride to travel to America to find his true queen in Queens. Lisa and Akeem have raised three beautiful and strong daughters, any of which could rule Zamunda.
And yet, it seems Akeem has bowed to the weight of the throne and tradition by overlooking them in hopes that this son can be crowned. All in all, it’s a compelling and familiar storyline. It seems Mr. Murphy decided, If it worked before, it’ll work again. And guess what – he’s right.
Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice
Look, we all know that there was no way the writers and producers of Coming 2 America were going to be able to come up with a new formula that would have worked as well as the comedy of the original. They didn’t try to. Instead, they reworked all the magic that made the original a classic. The same way we laughed 30 years ago (and during all the re-watches), this sequel made us laugh again. They even took the time, again and again, to laugh at themselves and at what this movie actually is. It felt like visiting family, catching up with all our favorite characters and finding all their expected quirks just as endearing and funny.
Funny, Funny, Funny
Listen, I cannot stress enough how much we laughed watching Coming 2 America. It’s no wonder – the cast is a Who’s Who of Black Comedy royalty (and SNL training). Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall put together an irreverent cast of favorites, like Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and Wesley Snipes, as well as many, many, many cameos and actors – all of whom just seemed to be having the time of their lives bringing Zamunda back to life. There were old favorites from the original movie and newcomers who helped upgrade Zamunda for new generations. The kids who unwillingly watched the first movie at our insistence, happily joined us to watch the second.
One of the only disappointments of the original movie, was the use of the 80’s colorism trope that permeated every film of that time. Remember that Patrice McDowell, Lisa’s baby sister, was the darker sister. She was also written to be promiscuous, sassy, and a gold digger. Lisa, the lighter sister, was portrayed as more mature, more refined and with the natural makings of a queen. Patrice showcased interest in Akeem first, but he rejected her in favor of her older sister and so Patrice was seen throwing herself first at Semmi (who she thought was the prince) and then at Darryl (who was the heir to the SoulGlo haircare empire). The blatant colorism displayed in Patrice’s storyline has often been cited as a huge flaw in the original movie. Eddie Murphy obviously agreed. What I happily noticed while watching Coming 2 America, was that all the women, included Lisa McDowell Joffer were Brown Beauties of every hue and size. And neither was used as a punchline, as with the first movie. I’m so glad they recognized and corrected this flaw. It made the movie feel more inclusive.
Zamunda Is Our Heart
Traveling back to Zamunda (by way of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, GA) was an absolute joy and feast for the eyes and ears. The African and African American women sported gorgeous hairstyles – natural and straightened – and costumes that took my breath away. Let me tell you, if you think Christian Seriano is the only designer who can dress Leslie Jones, I can assure you that he has nothing on the renowned Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter. Did I say that her costumes for this movie were AH-MAY-ZING? Because they were.
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And the cast knew it. They strutted and strolled, danced and played. The music was fun, upbeat, and hysterically surprising at times. This movie was a delight. I could not have been more satisfied.
In 2021, this escape to the land of Zamunda and the borough of Queens is needed and welcomed. If you find yourself needing to escape and laugh as only Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall can make you, watch Coming 2 America. It lives up to its promise.