The kingdom of Zamunda is back on the big screens! After more than 30 years, Eddie Murphy’s 1988 blockbuster comedic adventure about an African prince’s journey to New York to find a bride gets a welcome sequel in Coming 2 America.
The new movie sees Eddie Murphy and his sidekick, Arsenio Hall reunite for a return trip from Zamunda to New York (Queens) to find his “bastard son” Lavelle.
At 1 hour 48 mins, Coming 2 America brings all the charm of the first movie but doesn’t give the same sense of American adventure.
Released in March, Coming 2 America opens with a nostalgic scene where now-middle-aged Prince Akeem of Zamunda and his wife, Lisa are being awakened by their three daughters wishing them a happy anniversary.
This mirrors Prince Akeem’s intro scene in the first instalment when he is awakened by his three beautiful female attendants on the morning of his 21st birthday.
However, this movie isn’t just a story of Prince Akeem’s happy ever after, it has a unique twist that many might not exactly like.
After years of marriage, Akeem’s children are all girls. Based on tradition, he needs a male heir to inherit his throne. This will also prevent General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the warlord of neighbouring Nextdoria from stealing his throne.
After his father dies, Murphy follows his father’s dying promise to find his (Akeem’s) long lost son.
Co-written by Kenya Barris and directed by Craig Brewer, Coming 2 America is a pure burst of comedic delight that follows King Akeems journey back to queens to bring Lavelle back to Zamunda to take his place as crown prince.
Akeem and Semmi arrive in the same Queens neighbourhood but time and technology have revolutionised the community save for the still-standing, still-decrepit My-T-Sharp barbershop.
The movie reenacts several comedic scenes like the conversation between motormouth barbers, Mr Clarence and Morris. then there’s the cab scene where Akeem flags down a cab but gets a “you need to sign up on an app” retort.
However, the comedy in the sequel isn’t as breathtaking as the first. Don’t get me wrong, Murphy was extremely likeable as a sweet-natured king channelling the funny vibes of the original Prince Akeem. But the narrative just went full circle as Lavelle ends up having to marry Izzi’s daughter and changing his mind just like Prince Akeem in the first film.
Lavelle instead falls in love with Mirembe, his royal barber (Nomzamo Mbatha) without the love story and fanfare that preceded Prince Akeem and Lisa’s union.
That’s not all, the movie also spent a good chunk of time narrating a prince ritual that was almost boring and bothering on nonsensical. Well, at least we got to see a lion chase the prince even though it was too slow to be called an actual chase.
Talking a bit about the directing of this movie, anyone with a keen eye will see how meticulous Craig was on this project. He incredibly portrayed the African culture with a mix of American character that is unique.
However, it was weird that after so many years, Zamunda was still portrayed as this jungle country with not much technology or even development. New York on the other hand, already had Uber.
Asides from the story, a decent chunk of the picture is given over to beautiful and heavenly musical numbers, some from veteran acts like Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, and some from African acts. A notable mention is the wedding intro by Nigerian artiste, Davido.
The dance and choreography is a pure burst of delight, from the very first one during the funeral to the one at the marriage proposal. It had an enthralling effect rivalled only by those in the first movie.
To crown it all, the fashion and costume used in the movie were out of this world. The design explored all forms of beauty in a blend of African and Western culture.
There was an evident colour representation of many African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya.
It should not come as a mystery that Murphy’s performance was above outstanding all through the movie, for as far back as the 1980s, this actor, and comedian has been a beast on set.
The movie is however not just hinged around the multi-talented Murphy, as roles played by his daughter, Old Guard Star, Kiki Layne was superb.
To delve deeper into the roles played by Lisa McDowells, Semmi, and Reem, as well as others would be to kill the suspense and the thrill of the movie.
However, Blade star, Wesley Snipes’ character as General Izzi was just mediocre. He was given almost nothing to do except show up, pronounce a few threats, and then disappear.
Stars to look out for in the movie include Morgan Freeman, Trevor Noah, Rick Ross and Davido.
Predictably, Coming 2 America, like the original, ended with a wedding but didn’t give the same satisfying feeling.
Reclaiming the spirit of the First Coming to America might not be as simple as it sounds. The in-jokes, the combination of stars and the returning of characters to keep fans happy was all great but the boring plot doomed it to the shadow of its megasuccessful original.
All in all, the movie celebrates African culture and tradition and also points out the fact that sometimes traditions need to change. It also highlighted the need for women empowerment and gender equality in Africa.
Coming 2 America is currently rated 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, 52% on Metacritic and 5.2 on IMDb. In comparison, Coming to America (1988) has a rating of 7.1 on IMDb and 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.
That said, Coming 2 Ameria is a good solid movie especially for fans of the first movie. Murphy didn’t disappoint as he took us down memory lane in several scenes. If you long for happiness or something to watch with your family this weekend, then you can get an extra dose from this movie.
The movie is available in Cinemas and Amazon Prime.
You can watch the full review of Coming 2 America below.
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