Coming 2 America review: charming but frustratingly light on laughs
Over 30 years later, the long-awaited sequel finally arrives this Friday.
As a rule of thumb, delayed sequels have a tendency to be vastly inferior to what has come before, and in no genre is that gap in quality more apparent than in comedies.
Look at the likes of Anchorman 2, Blues Brothers 2000, Zoolander 2, Super Trooper 2, Dumb & Dumber To, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2... they range from disappointing to shockingly bad, so with Coming 2 America arriving a full 33 years after the original, the odds were stacked against, and we've got some good and bad news.
The good news first, this movie doesn't fall into the shockingly bad category, but it does firmly take a spot on the disappointing list, as while the overwhelming charm of the cast makes the whole thing immensely watchable, it is - bizarrely - very rarely funny.
On the eve of becoming king of Zamunda, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is told by his dad/current ruler King Joffer (James Earl Jones) that the crown must be passed on to a male heir, with Joffer expressing much disappointment that Akeem has only had three daughters. However, in a bit of retconning, we discover that Akeem actually does have a son, after hooking up with a Queens local (Leslie Jones) during his prior visit.
So Akeem heads back to America to inform his "bastard son" Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) that he is in fact a prince, and from there on out we essentially get the plot of the original movie, but in reverse: a poor, young American man trying to acclimate to a new world of wealth and opulence and a different set of social rules.
As plots go it is hardly inspired (the central theme of overlooked females is essentially the same as Disney's Aladdin), but that would scarcely matter if the movie was funny enough to distract you. Which, we're sorry to say, it simply isn't.
Most of the opportunities for jokes seem to be replaced by whole segments of "Remember these guys??", with Murphy and his faithful man-servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) replaying the iconic characters from the first movie. Remember the Sexual Chocolate guy? He's back. Remember the group of barbers? They're back! Remember the sexist church reverend? Yep, he's back too! We even get the owner of McDowell's (John Amos) and Akeem's former fast-food colleague Maurice (Louis Anderson), shoe-horned into the plot in the most awkward way imaginable.
Those characters all fed into the tone of the first movie really well, which almost had a segmented sketch-comedy feel to it, with Murphy coming in hot off the back of Saturday Night Live. But here, it just smacks of laziness, with very few new characters added into the mix, and seemingly more thought put into which celebrity cameos that can get on set for the day.
It is a real pity, because Murphy's charm is firing on all cylinders, clearly over the moon to be back playing this character. And some of the new additions to the cast are fantastic, including Wesley Snipes as the movie's antagonist, the militarist leader of Zamunda's neighbouring country Nextdoria, and proving that the Murphy/Snipes chemistry in Dolemite Is My Name was no fluke.
What could've been a great return to form ends up being more of a victory lap to celebrate the greatness from last time, and while that isn't necessarily inherently a bad thing, it does feel like a bit of wasted opportunity.
Coming 2 America will be available to watch on Prime Video from Friday, 5 March.
Clip via Amazon Prime Video