From: Silver Screen
‘Coming 2 America’ is a love letter to its predecessor that celebrates Black culture
This review contains spoilers for “Coming 2 America.”
It’s been over 30 years since audiences first explored Zamunda — and Queens — in “Coming to America,” a timeless, raunchy comedy about an African prince’s quest to find the love of his life in New York City. It performed extremely well at both the national and worldwide box office and is considered a cult classic by many.
“Coming 2 America” is the sequel fans have been waiting for, and it does not disappoint. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as Prince Akeem and his personal aide/friend Semmi, along with a slew of other familiar supporting characters. The film takes what made its predecessor great and expands on it, from worldbuilding to set design to the extremely talented cast. It appeals to a wide range of audiences and celebrates Black culture with its music and stunning visuals.
In the film, we travel back to Zamunda to find King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) at his deathbed, ready to give the throne to Akeem. Before his passing, however, Jaffe explains to Akeem that he needs an heir to the throne, and that Akeem’s three daughters are ineligible because they are women, much to the disappointment of Akeem’s eldest daughter, Meeka (Kiki Layne). He then reveals to Akeem that he has a son in New York City from when he and Semmi were in Queens.
Using CGI, the film smartly places us in a scene from the original film, and melds it with new scenes by using de-aging technology. It’s one of the advantages of making a sequel so many years later, and it’s a really creative way to expand on the story.
Zamunda’s neighboring country, the dictatorship of Nextdoria, is threatening to take over the country if one of Akeem’s daughters doesn’t marry the son of Nextdoria’s leader, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). In order to avoid this, Akeem travels to Queens once again to find his son and eventual heir, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), whose mother and uncle are portrayed by the entertaining Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan. Akeem transports all three of them to Zamunda in order to prepare Lavelle as a prince and subsequently uses him to broker peace.
Lavelle’s transition from ticket reseller in Times Square to Zamundan royalty doesn’t go so smoothly, as he experiences culture shock; falls in love with his hairdresser, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha); and learns about Akeem’s plan to use him as a political tool.
Murphy and Hall are as charismatic and energetic as they were 30 years ago in the multiple roles they play, including my personal favorite Murphy character, the over-the-top Prince wannabe Randy Watson, who helms the band Sexual Chocolate.
The standout performer, however, is surprisingly Snipes, who previously worked with Murphy in 2019’s “Dolemite Is My Name.” There’s something hilarious about watching Snipes play a brash, playful general whose swagger is emphasized by his traveling dance troupe, aka his soldiers, and Snipes goes all out to subvert the hardened military general trope.
At a press conference, the returning cast members reflected on what it was like to work on the original film in 1988. Vanessa Bell Calloway, who plays General Izzi’s sister Imani, mentioned how she was surprised that most of the cast was Black.
Garcelle Beauvais, who plays the rose bearer priestess, said that the fact that “Coming 2 America” filmed at Tyler Perry Studios is in itself a statement on how far Black filmmakers and creators have come in the film industry.
Whether it’s the hip-hop beats in Queens, the rhythmic percussion in Zamunda or even a blend of both, music breathes life into each scene of this film. It’s matched at times with equally exciting choreography and elaborate set pieces that ooze with kinetic energy. While this film is in many ways a celebration of Black culture, the costumes and set design draw inspiration from Continental Africa, and are incredibly elaborate and beautifully crafted with care. African talents are also included in the cast, such as Rotimi, Michael Blackson and Mbatha.
In the press conference, Murphy mentioned that the original film was the first with an all-Black cast to become successful worldwide, and that it subverted expectations of other black films at the time because it was about love, family, tradition and doing the right thing.
“Coming 2 America” continues that legacy with extravagance and care. While Murphy and Hall aren’t always in focus, the rest of this extremely talented cast steps up to deliver a fun, fresh, feel good experience.
“Coming 2 America” will be available on Prime Video starting March 5, 2021.