Released in 2021. Written by Eddie Murphy & Barry W. Blaustein. Directed by Craig Brewer. Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, & Jermaine Fowler. Running time 1 hour 50 minutes.
A fish out of water story told 20 something years later as a sequel to the original fish out of water story of Prince Akeem of Zamunda who travels to America to find his true love. This time, King Akeem must find the son he never knew he had and bring him back to Zamunda as the heir to the throne.
What I liked
Visually, Coming 2 America has the past and the future beautifully intertwined with the lavishness of the palace of Zamunda and the nitty gritty of Queens, New York. The palace is gorgeous with its neutral colors and grand architecture which serves as the perfect backdrop for the amazing and colorful costumes, head pieces, and large celebrations. The costuming, hair, and makeup were the best part of this film for me. The elaborate costuming and hair were stunning and the choreographed group dance numbers were full of high energy and fun to watch.
The usual players were here with a few new faces. Everyone played their part as expected; although, no one really stood out for me. Except Kiki Layne as Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka. I would have like more scenes with her. She was fierce, beautiful, and a wonderful statement of female empowerment, hard work, dedication, and fairness.
What I wished was better
So much time has gone by (33 years!) and this was the best script they could come up with? I get the fish out of water bit. It worked the first time…but that doesn’t mean it will work again. I won’t be too nit-picky, since so many people (including myself) thought the first movie was clever, funny, and had a great message about finding true love, being yourself, and letting go of antiquated ideas. I wish this sequel remembered these things before embarking on making this film.
Here are a few key points I didn’t care for:
Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) is presented as a smart, motivated, young man who struggles to get past societal prejudices against Black men. He is stereotyped in a job interview by a White man similar in age. Once he gets to Zamunda however, he throws all that out the window to act like a junior version of his mother Mary (Leslie Jones) which is contrary to what we are introduced to. Mary brilliantly serves all the crass we need in this film, it doesn’t need to double down adding Lavelle to that mix.
The film takes place 20 something years after the first, so how are the barber shop guys still alive when they were already nearing 100 years old? Am I the only one to question this? Couldn’t the barber shop still be there but with the sons of the original guys acting like spitting images of them, or something, making references about the princes being real instead a story their dads told them? It would’ve kept the timeline a little cleaner. Everyone else is older, so…
Lisa and her marriage hasn’t made much of an impact on the kingdom of Zamunda. Prince Akeem going through everything to convince his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) to change the laws so he can marry his true love has not done a thing to further the kingdom in equality of women’s rights. At all. Women cannot own businesses and women cannot rule. *Lisa reminds Akeem of this late in the film but it really shouldn’t have been a plot point to begin with.* Back to Lisa, she isn’t given much to work with here. She appears to have lost her independence after marrying Akeem. Her daughters are amazing young women but I feel it isn’t because of her influence but of the requirements of being royalty and groomed as such. Lisa doesn’t play as the regal, smart, influential wife as Madge Sinclair did as Queen Aoleon in the first movie. Too bad. And where is Queen Aoleon? (I know Madge Sinclair passed away in real life but there is no mention of her in the movie passing. )
Meeka. Oh Meeka, I’m sorry you were used as plot point to support a manchild’s journey into self-discovery and had to sacrifice everything you worked for your whole life so someone who knows nothing of your culture, your kingdom, and who also demonstrates very little appreciation for the opportunity at stake. You are a strong, fierce, and ultimately the true leader your kingdom deserves by the compassion and patience you showed helping Lavelle in his tests for the throne as well as your eventual acceptance of the inevitable. I’m glad it worked out in the end 🙂
An alternate version
You know by now, I love to share my alternate version of a film when the vison calls. Here ya go: Imagine a future Zamunda where King Jaffe is passing away and all the funeral stuff happens with the special musical guests and stuff minus the conversation about having a bastard son in New York. Zamunda is a forward thinking kingdom where women can choose to work in the palace as they already do or have their own businesses if they want. All the cultural practices (and sexual references stay in place). This time, as Prince Akeem takes his place as King, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) shows up and proposes an arranged marriage to blend their kingdoms. Meeka, the future Queen, doesn’t want to marry a man she doesn’t love and reminds her father of his past and falling in love with her mother.
Meanwhile, in Queens, New York, Lavelle Junson, after a job interview goes to crap, discovers a photo taken of his mother and Akeem. Mary tells him the wild story of her night with Akeem via flashbacks. Lavelle Googles Akeem and Zamunda only to find out it’s a real place and Akeem is a real Prince who just became King. He wonders if Akeem could be his father so he contacts Semmi. Semmi and Akeem have the conversation about him having a bastard son. They travel to America to meet him. Lavelle and Mary agree to go to Zamunda. The potential of Lavelle being the next in line for the throne causes Meeka concern (like in the current version) but it also releases her from the arranged marriage situation.
Lavelle and Mary are still the fish out of water but this time, Lavelle maintains his initial characterization while trying to learn the culture and customs of the kingdom and the pressures of being the future king. The arranged marriage thing with General Izzi’s daughter still happens and Lavelle still falls in love with Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha) his personal hairdresser and confidant. The rest plays out as shown. Everyone lives happily ever after, the female characters are represented with an empowered point of view, the fish out of water premise still works, and the jokes and characters which made the first film work are still there for nostalgia.
Coming 2 America is a visually beautiful film but has a structurally flawed script focusing on the male ego with references to female empowerment and equality instead of a balanced script with strong female characters and plausible return to the fish out of water premise. If you liked the first movie, the nostalgia of returning characters and comedy bits may save this film for you as a decent film to watch. If you want more thoughtfulness and less fluff in a sequel, then this film might fall short for you as it did me. I give Coming 2 America 2.5 / 5 for the sheer beauty of the costumes, hair, sets, and group choreography only. Watch the trailer below: