Audiences were first introduced to the world of Zamunda in the romantic comedy, Coming to America. In the motion picture, viewers met a colorful cast of characters lead by Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem Joffer. The feature was a box office success during its original release but it has achieved cult status amongst fans and still endures today. In Coming 2 America, we have the opportunity to catch up with the prince and company in the sequel.
Thirty years have passed and Akeem has his own family with his wife, Lisa, but alas, no rightful heir in Zamundan customs since he has only daughters. As his health begins to fail him, King Jaffe informs the prince of his illegitimate son back in Queens. Akeem must return to America and track down his long-lost child and convince him to return to Africa to learn the royal customs in order to become his successor when the time comes. Meanwhile, General Izzi, Akeem’s rival and ruler of the hostile country of Nextdoria, has his own plans for Zamunda.
Coming 2 America recreates much of the fun of the original while updating to the present day. You don’t necessarily need to have watched or remembered the first film since it does a good job of catching people up and highlighting the important prior aspects but it sure does make viewing more enjoyable. There are so many amusing callbacks that are seamlessly introduced. For the most part, they all play a role in the narrative and don’t feel forced or strictly for fan service. It’s almost like catching a Marvel flick and keeping an eye out for Easter eggs.
As expected, there’s some hysterical top-notch comedy. The McDowells/McDonalds bit never gets old and the final prince ceremony in particular stands out for its silliness. All the different cameos add to the entertainment and the extravagant ways of the royal family are still ludicrous. In addition, much like the initial movie, all the dance numbers and costuming are so elaborate. If only we could have explored Zamunda more but we never really leave the palace.
Despite the parallels and familiarity of Coming 2 America, the film isn’t a lazy rehash and can stand on its own. They do flip the script on the fish out of water tale by bringing New Yorker, Lavelle, to Zamunda to assimilate, but he’s a different man from his father. While a young Akeem was wide-eyed and naïve when he first moved to Queens, Lavelle has a more realistic view on life and walks around with a chip on his shoulder. Though he is respectful, he’s not as bound to traditions due to where he grew up.
However, the main story still centers around Akeem and as he’s aged since we last saw him, his views and priorities have changed. He doesn’t need to find a wife this time around and is now concerned with legacy and living up to expectations while setting them for his children. In reprising the role, Murphy has shown the charm, comedic timing, and earnestness that made him such an emerging star in the 80s. There is an especially poignant scene later in the film when he turns to John Amos’ Cleo for fatherly advice that is heartfelt and moving.
With so much emphasis on legacies, there is a longing to learn more about Akeem’s daughters. Mainly, Meeka since she is the eldest and would have been next in line if it were not for traditions. She’s a very strong, independent woman but takes a back seat to her brother story wise. She still has a lasting impact on the plot, but it would have been nice to develop her and her relationships more.
Coming 2 America is like reconnecting with old friends and setting off on a new journey together. It has outlandish comedy with a lot of heart as it focuses on family and acceptance.
Coming 2 America will stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on March 5.
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