I don’t envy the job of anybody tasked with taking a basic Eighties comedy — Coming to America, say — and making a decades-later sequel that tries to please its assured viewers. Particularly, everybody who cherished the unique, individuals who’ve rewatched it 1,000,000 instances, who’ve Soul Glo memes saved on their telephones, who know each phrase to “Sexual Chocolate,” who — as in my case — grew up in households the place Coming to America was in all probability the one consensus film that everybody from my grandmother all the way down to myself and my cousins would all crowd across the tv to look at and rewatch. It’s a effective line that virtually begs to make Goldilocks of us all. Too near the unique and we’ll complain that we might as properly simply have rewatched the unique (which we’ll anyway); stray too far and we’ll say, “You’ve gone too far.” That’s the sport.
And Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer, performs it fairly properly. The gang’s (virtually) all right here: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Corridor, Shari Headley, James Earl Jones, Louie Anderson, Paul Bates — even John Amos. Solely the Jheri-curled Eriq La Salle, Allison Dean (who performed Headley’s youthful sister), and the late Madge Sinclair (who performed the mom of Prince Hakeem with such memorable poise) are lacking and, frankly, missed.
However not as a result of this 2021 sequel is missing for materials. Coming 2 America takes the identical concept — fish-out-of-water meets black romantic comedy meets each doable excuse for Murphy and Corridor to play as many characters as doable — and provides it a Subsequent Era spin, solely flipping the script. As a substitute of a humorously bewildered prince, Hakeem Joffer (Murphy), making the trek from Zamunda to Queens, we get a younger man from Queens, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), catapulted into an odd new life in Zamunda. The consequence: a film that’s funniest when it performs the hits and when, because of some contemporary faces within the room — amongst them Leslie Jones, Wesley Snipes, Tracy Morgan, and Nomzamo Mbatha — it provides characters who slot in so seamlessly they might simply have properly been within the authentic. Actually, a Coming 2 America sequel with out Jones and Morgan is, looking back, somewhat arduous to think about — not solely due to the SNL connection, however there’s additionally that. (Right here’s the place it might as properly be famous that Colin Jost is on this film for some motive, and he’s about as misplaced right here because the Pepsi product placement.)
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The story? You’ll acknowledge it. Suffice it to say that wild oats have been sown again in 1988 which, properly, technically led to an inheritor. Which is difficult information given the life that Hakeem — as soon as a prince, now a king — lives with Queen Lisa (Headley) and his three daughters (performed by KiKi Layne, Akiley Love, and Bella Murphy, real-life daughter of Eddie), the oldest of which, Princess Meeka (Layne), has her eyes on the throne regardless of legal guidelines that forbid a girl carrying the crown. Think about some random child from Queens exhibiting as much as declare what would, in a really perfect world, be yours — what you hope your father might be a sufficiently big man to bestow upon you — and you may think about the brand new pressure added to this film. And the possibility at shaking up the gender dynamics.
That pressure, although, is only a car for the film’s fundamental stars to do their factor with a veneer of newness. There’s nonetheless an organized marriage for the Zamundan prince to juggle, as his father did (which is the place Snipes, taking part in the swaggering Normal Izzi of Nextdoria, comes into play); there’s nonetheless an opportunity for a quartet of barbershop jokesters to virtually run away with the film; and with the addition of Teyana Taylor, because the daughter of Normal Izzi, there’s much more music and dance. It’s like watching a film mould itself across the snicker observe of the unique. However when the unique is genuinely humorous…
A not-uncommon criticism about Craig Brewer’s final stab at a franchise property, his 2011 tackle the popcorn basic Footloose, was that it hewed so intently to the unique that it had no id of its personal. (“I used to be wickedly tempted to reprint my 1984 assessment, phrase for phrase,” wrote Roger Ebert. “However that may be mistaken.”) Coming 2 America is technically a sequel, not a remake, however within the spirit of each the remakes and sequels we’ve been bombarded with of late, it might be wisest to think about it an replace: a mild massaging of the Eighties humor, which these days might really feel somewhat old-fashioned, possibly even cringe. The script is credited to Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, and bears Barris’ fingerprints most of all, all the way down to a sneaky nod to Barbershop, his breakout writing credit score. Coming 2 America takes somewhat after the moralizing acquainted to his different work and isn’t essentially extra attention-grabbing for it, solely extra trendy.
However maintaining with the instances isn’t a foul factor. With out touting itself as a band-aid, Coming 2 America presents splashes of self-aware corrective. It was a bit fucked (and likewise humorous; comedy is a treacherous animal) for the unique film to scale back Prince Hakeem’s meant, Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway), to a barking no one again in 1988. The brand new film supplies a solution to this. However, the truth that Hakeem went to Queens to search out his queen — the truth that he needed a spouse with a thoughts of her personal — was additionally the purpose, as the brand new film very properly is aware of and comfortably rehashes.
In addition to, the actual butt of that joke was the backwardness of Zamunda, primitive in its social expectations regardless of all that kingly glamor. Black Individuals’ concepts about life in Africa was additionally, all the time, one of many central jokes of Coming to America, although whether or not the joke was on Western misconceptions about Africa or African cultures in themselves is a debate — the sort of debate you must push out of thoughts if what you need is solely to benefit from the film. Coming 2 America presents a number of steps ahead (a winking cameo from the hit musician Davido, for instance) and possibly a few steps again, on that entrance. Normal Izzi: a sophisticated working example. (Snipes is, as ever, a good time regardless.) What’s clear is that Murphy and Brewer struck onto one thing with their final collaboration, Dolemite Is My Title, a greater film for giving them an opportunity to do one thing authentic within the guise of doing one thing predictable. Seeing them retain a few of that rhythm right here is refreshing, nonetheless. Coming 2 America is an effective time — much more, it’s proof that this actor-director pair are on the verge of one thing nice.