Here’s the shortest review of Coming 2 America that you will read: Coming 2 America is a comedy triumph. Stop reading this review. Go and watch it. Right now.
OK. Either you don’t believe me, or you watched the movie and came back to hear what I had to say.
Let me begin with the fact that I have never used the word “triumph” to date in any review I’ve ever written.
It’s overused to the point of nausea. But it actually applies here. So I’m using it, this one time, in a humorous vein.
I know what you’re thinking. Successful movie sequels are rare.
Successful movie comedy sequels are practically nonexistent.
Miserably-failed attempts include: Ghostbusters II, Dumb and Dumber to, Caddyshack II, the list goes on and on. It’s difficult, if not impossible to make laugh-out-loud-lightning strike twice.
But that’s exactly what Eddie Murphy does in Coming 2 America.
Admittedly, I had my doubts. While the trailers looked good, I reminded myself that movie comedy trailers almost always look good.
That's because sometimes every funny gag in an otherwise bad movie gets jammed into the trailer in order to sell tickets. I prayed that wasn’t the case here.
I’m a big Eddie Murphy fan. I truly believe that when he’s at his best, he’s a comedy genius.
Exhibits A, B, and C would include: Trading Places (1983), The Nutty Professor (1996) or any one of the Shrek movies, take your pick.
If you think his career can only be viewed in a rearview mirror, I’d offer up Dolemite is My Name (2019) as evidence that Eddie Murphy is still outrageously funny.
In my estimation,two of his all-time funniest films were collaborations with director John Landis. I’m referring to Trading Places, and the original Coming to America.
Landis is a master of movie comedy, whose resume also includes The Blues Brothers (1980), a comedy for the ages. Not everyone can direct comedy well.
While it appeared that the original ensemble was back for Coming 2 America, I noticed that Landis’s name was missing.
I wondered for a moment how this might affect the energy and creative sparks needed to bring a sequel to life, until I saw that he was being replaced by Craig Brewster, Murphy’s collaborator and director on Dolemite is My Name.
It seemed like everything was in place for a sure-fire follow up. The returning cast included: Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos and Wesley Snipes. New cast members included Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan.
The script nicely bridges the 30-year gap in the story.
As the king of Zamunda approaches his final days, it becomes clear that his son Lavelle will become the new king. But the question arises about who would succeed him since he has no son, and therefore no rightful heir to the throne.
All this is despite the fact that any one of his three remarkable daughters are more than fit to rule. As with many great movie comedies, there is some focus on social injustice and resistance to inevitable change.
In the meantime, Akeem and Semmi find themselves flying back to Queens in search of the illegitimate son (played by Jermaine Fowler) who Akeem never knew he had, following a foggy night of partying with a Disco Queen of Queens played by SNL star Leslie Jones.
It’s a double-dose of SNL with Tracy Morgan playing her street-wise brother.
Coming 2 America bounces from Africa to America and back in forth in time with perfect balance. It re-connects with all the schtick that made the original so funny, including the old guys at the local barbershop, all played with prosthetic, old-guy makeup.
Arguably, the most loveable guy in the bunch is the old, white guy played by Eddie Murphy—a gag suggested by John Landis who suggested that it would be payback for all the years that Jewish comedians portrayed African-American performers by appearing in blackface.
To its credit, Coming 2 America recaptures the magic of the original.
The jokes and gags are funny. The performances are spot-on. And the pace never falters.
The script is fine tuned. The technical credits are rock solid. There is nothing not to like, or not laugh at.
At the center of it is Eddie Murphy, still at the top of his game.
He’s one of those comedians who can crack you up without uttering a single line. His signature, exaggerated smile can leave you in stitches.
Impressively, Coming 2 America doesn’t rely on adult humor for laughs.
OK, there is a gag involving ceremonial circumcision that pushes the limits a little, but even that manages to reel itself in to the guidelines of a PG-13 Rating (the original was rated R).
Coming to America was nominated for two Oscars back in 1989 for Best Costume Design (Deborah Nadoolman) and Best Makeup (the legendary Rick Baker).
It is noteworthy and worth mentioning that the dazzling costumes this time were designed by none other than Ruth E. Carter, the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Costume Design for her outstanding work on Black Panther (2018).
Coming 2 America is a quality movie, top to bottom.
It’s refreshing to see there are still people around who know how to craft great comedy, that will be entertaining audiences for years to come.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 30 years for another installment.
Coming 2 America is available March 5th on Prime Video.
Photos courtesy Amazon Studios.