If you never saw or can’t remember Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America (1988), you might enjoy the original before tuning into this comedic sequel, newly released on Amazon Prime.
But it’s not necessary. Director Craig Brewer, working with writers Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, supplies all the background information you’ll need to follow the fairy tale.
It begins as Zamunda’s dying King Jaffe Joffer (90 year-old James Earl Jones) tells Crown Prince Akeem (Murphy), that, since he and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have three girls but no boy, according to patriarchal laws, Akeem must find his “bastard son,” now living in Queens, New York.
So Akeem and his trusted aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) set off in search of the elusive male heir to mythical Zamunda’s throne. Meanwhile in a power play, wily General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) from Nextdoria wants his son Idi (Rotimi) to marry Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne).
Arriving in Queens, Akeem re-visits the barbershop where Clarence, Saul and Morris still hang out, trading quips that skewer Teslas and transgender people.
After locating his long-lost offspring – Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), his mother (Leslie Jones) and uncle (Tracy Morgan) – Akeem brings them back to the Palace, where General Izzi now proposes that Lavelle marry his seductive daughter (Teyana Taylor).
Problem is: Lavelle falls in love with his Zamundan hairstylist, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha).
Cameos abound, including ‘90s R&B and hip-hop groups, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, plus Morgan Freeman and Trevor Noah. Sartorial storyteller Ruth E. Carter’s costumes dazzle; on Feb. 25, she became the second costume designer ever to receive a Wall of Fame star.
When Mirembe declares, “American cinema is the best!” Lavelle replies: “What do we have besides superhero shit, remakes and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?” Exactly.
FYI: parents should know that the vulgarity pushes PG-13 rating boundaries.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Coming 2 America” is a nostalgic 6, filled with reunion comedy sketches and memorable post-credit scenes.