Arsenio Corridor and Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America.
Picture: Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Footage
It’s arduous to think about what somebody who hasn’t seen the unique Coming to America — which, let’s not neglect, got here out 33 years in the past — would make of its sequel. It’s been various years since Hollywood’s obsession with franchising every thing prompted the business to begin reaching again to the dormant legacies of titles from the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s. However at the least new movies like Mad Max: Fury Street and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle try to reinvent and redefine (I’m attempting very arduous to not say “reboot”) their tales and characters for the present second.
Coming 2 America, which premieres on Amazon Prime Video this week, in contrast, virtually calls for encyclopedic recall of the unique; it exists primarily as a vessel to reunite characters and redo traditional bits from the primary Coming to America (which, by the way in which, can also be at present and conveniently obtainable on Amazon Prime Video). That’s type of the important thing to the brand new movie’s rickety attraction, even when that additionally means it’s doomed to reside eternally within the shadow of its megasuccessful authentic.
Reclaiming the spirit of the primary Coming to America won’t be so simple as it sounds. Again in 1988, Eddie Murphy was most likely the largest comedy star on the planet, and lots of his most profitable stand-up from that period has dated so preposterously that it may now be its personal meta-humor bit. Coming to America was by no means as uncooked as, say, Eddie Murphy Uncooked, in fact, however watching the brand new film’s opening scene of a now-middle-aged Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Murphy) and his spouse Lisa (Shari Headley) being woke up by their three daughters wishing them a cheerful anniversary, one is reminded that within the authentic, it was a really single Prince Akeem being woke up by his three bare, lovely feminine attendants on the morning of his twenty first birthday. It’s not simply that issues have modified. It’s that the brand new scene has been shot and reduce to echo the unique scene, so it solely actually works if we’re conscious of how a lot issues have modified; in any other case we would marvel why this new movie is dwelling so awkwardly on every daughter politely saying, “Good morning, mom and father” to their mother and father.
The story of the sequel additionally straight pertains to that earlier journey Prince Akeem and his shut buddy and adviser Semmi (Arsenio Corridor) took to the U.S. lo these a few years in the past. Akeem wants a male inheritor to inherit his throne, or his kingdom shall be at risk of falling into the fingers of a strongman, Basic Izzi (a terrific Wesley Snipes), the preening, strutting, kilt-wearing warlord of neighboring Nextdoria who spends his free time studying storybooks to his military of kid troopers. (Izzi’s sister was betrothed to Akeem in Coming to America, and he or she’s nonetheless barking like a canine — one other hilarious throwaway bit that may make actually zero sense to anybody who hasn’t seen the primary movie pretty just lately.) Akeem, who solely has daughters, discovers that he really has a son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), whom he fathered out-of-wedlock again in New York throughout a zonked-out, half-remembered (and fairly probably nonconsensual on his half, which can understandably increase some eyebrows) coupling with celebration woman Mary (Leslie Jones). So, naturally, he and Semmi head again to New York to seek out the younger man and produce him again to Zamunda to take his place as first in line to the throne.
In different phrases, Coming 2 America is each figuratively and actually a nostalgia tour. Akeem and Semmi land in the identical Queens neighborhood as earlier than, and naturally it has gentrified past perception — save for the still-standing, still-decrepit My-T-Sharp barbershop, nonetheless populated with its trio of politically incorrect, motormouth barbers Mr. Clarence (additionally Murphy), Morris (additionally Corridor), and Sweets (longtime Murphy collaborator Clint Smith), in addition to their everlasting buyer, Saul (additionally Murphy). One may think that Murphy, Corridor, and their workforce would attempt to tiptoe via a minefield of probably problematic humor right here, however no, they form of gleefully step on all of the mines. The barbershop greets Akeem and Semmi with a hearty “Hey, it’s Kunta Kinte and Ebola!” and follows that up with “Famine and Blood Diamond!” and “Nelson Mandela and Winnie!” Whereupon a random buyer chimes in with “These hungry infants with the flies on their faces!” and instantly everybody goes stone-faced. “You discuss that type of shit concerning the hungry infants, you higher get out of my chair,” Mr. Clarence says, and promptly kicks the man out. These gabby previous males could also be out of contact, however even they’ve their limits.
The jokes, in different phrases, are the joke right here. It’s a intelligent solution to carve out some room — a secure house, if you’ll — for any such humor, a solution to indulge it whereas acknowledging that you understand it’s not fully kosher anymore. (That the inventive workforce right here, together with director Craig Brewer, is a part of the identical group that in some way efficiently navigated Dolemite Is My Title, a cheerful, successful biopic about infamously foul-mouthed and controversial insult comedian Rudy Ray Moore, shouldn’t be misplaced on us.) It feels as if Murphy has heard all of the folks out on the earth arguing that “you may’t make comedies about X anymore” and has been considering to himself, Nicely, can’t I?
All this isn’t to say that Coming 2 America is a few sleazebag edgelord fantasy of politically unacceptable humor. In fact, it’s too leisurely and raggedly good-natured for that, extra pageant than film. Akeem was already a straight man within the first movie — Murphy usually saved his greatest gags for the opposite characters he performed — however he fully drifts via this one, letting his response pictures do what little heavy-lifting is required. An honest chunk of the image is given over to musical numbers, some from veteran acts like Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, and En Vogue. As for the story, finally we get Lavelle and his mother Mary’s fish-out-of-water journey within the royal circles of Zamunda, the place they make fake pas after fake pas and the place Lavelle winds up with a romantic dilemma that mirrors Akeem’s from the unique: He’s purported to marry Izzi’s daughter (Teyana Taylor) for the nice of the dominion, however falls as a substitute for his royal barber (South African star Nomzamo Mbatha). Once more, it doesn’t really feel just like the filmmakers wrote a brand new script a lot as they only … rewrote the previous script.
The perfect new issues in Coming 2 America are additionally, weirdly, the worst new issues in Coming 2 America. Snipes’s flamboyant warlord just about steals the present (a lot as his pretentious director character stole Dolemite), however the present doesn’t steal him again. Izzi is given nearly nothing to do besides present up, sneer a number of threats, after which disappear. Admittedly, he does all this fabulously, however his presence feels clipped: The script really appears to be establishing an even bigger, extra villainous position for him. A late-breaking try to offer him extra to do narratively is instantly snuffed out, as if the manufacturing realized it didn’t actually have the time or the cash for a complete new subplot. Equally, Tracy Morgan, taking part in Lavelle’s hustler uncle, will get a number of errant wisecracks and will get to emcee one last ceremony, however that’s about it. Till you understand that on the earth of Coming 2 America, that’s just about all anybody is requested to do.
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