Comedy movie sequels are almost always greatest hits recaps of their originals. The creators watch the first one again and make a list of all the elements they’ll reprise in the new one. If you want proof, see “City Slickers II,” “Men In Black II,” and “Hot Shots, Part Deux.”
For “Coming 2 America,” that means Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall playing multiple roles, of course. But the checklist also includes: the old men in the barbershop (check!); the obnoxiously inappropriate reverend (check!); the McDonald’s ripoff restaurant McDowell’s (check!); and the jilted fiancée who barked like a dog (check!). The sequel even includes the barely-dressed female attendants who bathe the prince, proving that a span of three decades has not changed the attitude of the film’s all-male writing team regarding the sexualization of women.
Add to that mix even more broad comedy than the first time around, some CGI elephants/lions/zebras, and almost everyone from the original cast not named Eriq La Salle. That includes James Earl Jones (whose basso profundo voice has thinned with age), John Amos, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Garcelle Beauvais, and Louie Anderson, plus a cameo roster comprising En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, Morgan Freeman, and Trevor Noah.
The newcomers to the cast include KiKi Layne (so good in “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “The Old Guard”), Wesley Snipes, Teyana Taylor, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, and Tracy Morgan. The latter two always irritate me because they perform every line in every project in the exact same way (loud!). They’re not actors, but comics stuck into roles and told to do what they do.
Murphy, on the other hand, has always been a spectacular comedic artist, with the ability to play all the different aspects of his characters. In “Coming 2 America,” he shows his stuff — in the wide-open funny scenes and the more personal ones — with nuance and finesse. While much of this outing is taken up by callbacks to its 1988 predecessor (including a couple of lines that poke fun at the lameness of movie sequels), it would not work without Murphy embodying the humanity of Akeem (the former prince, now king of Zamunda).
The plot revolves around Akeem discovering that in addition to the three daughters he’s had with Lisa (his queen from Queens), he also has a son he didn’t know about, the result of a booze-and-pills evening during his first visit to America. To avoid a war with Zamunda’s neighboring nation, Nextdooria (!), Akeem returns to the US to retrieve his son, bring him back to Africa, and marry him off to the daughter of the rival nation’s military leader. From there…
Oh, come on, it doesn’t really matter where it goes from there, because you’re not going to decide whether to see “Coming 2 America” because of its plot. You’ll only care about making those check marks on your sequels-must-have list. The good news is you won’t find many spaces left empty, because “C2A” delivers what it’s supposed to.
If you liked the original, you’re likely to feel the same way about this jam-packed comedy callback. I didn’t set my expectations too high, and the movie reached them, but it’s not nearly as good as the first time we met Akeem. I’m giving “Coming 2 America” a 6.5 out of 10.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.