Coming 2 America
(SPOILERS) Well, it’s better than Beverly Hills Cop III. That’s a treacherously low bar, I know. But then, Coming 2 America was tempting fate with such self-referential lines as “What do we have besides superhero movies, uh, remakes and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?” I was keen to see a Beverly Hills Cop IV for the same reason as I’d have liked a Die Hard VI or Lethal Weapon V (or Dirty Harry VI): send a series out on something approaching an acceptable quality level. Coming to America had at least avoid the spoiling of its legacy. Until now.
I’m not sure anyone was calling for a sequel, although I have to admit I never rated the original that highly in the first place. Coming 2 America manages to makes its star a supporting character, one where Eddie Murphy feels compelled – perhaps as atonement for gleeful youthful political incorrectness – to foist a tedious gender-equality plotline on Prince Akeem, one we’ve seen a hundred times before (even at the time of the first movie). That’s not the real problem, though. The real problem is that this comedy isn’t funny.
Director Craig Brewer and Murphy clearly got along famously making Dolemite is My Name, a serviceable comeback movie for the star that nevertheless looked a lot more fun to make. Everyone probably had a good time on Coming 2 America too, but the result drags desperately. Murphy mostly seems content to contribute little more than reaction shots, aside from the occasional enthusiastic prosthetically-enhanced moment (the barbershop, Randy Watson). He’s clearly having a particularly good time reacting to Wesley Snipes’s General Izzi, who is by far the highlight of the movie, even if he doesn’t get many good lines (although, they’re better than most of the cast’s).
The spotlight is instead reserved for Akeem’s hitherto unknown bastard son Lavelle (Jermain Fowler), brought to Zamunda and required to complete a series of tests to become prince while also becoming engaged to Izzi’s daughter Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway, in the Grace Jones part). Oh, and along the way realising he’s actually in love with royal groomer Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha). Akeem’s daughter Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne) is none too happy about all this, denied the throne due to sexist Zamundan tradition. There are sufficient threads here to create a few sparks, but Brewer lets the movie limp along from scene to scene, and before long, anyone who has had a beef has patched things up. Which includes Queen Lisa (the returning Shari Headley) and Lavelle’s mum Mary (Leslie Jones), and also Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and Reem (Tracy Morgan, barely functional).
The gender plays are of the miserably clichéd variety, including fight sequences (the daughters besting Izzi) and Akeem being shut out of the marital bedroom. The culture-clash also fails to provoke any chuckles; instead, Lavelle torpidly shows his street smarts in order to sail through his tests (with the exception of the fake-out ceremonial circumcision telegraphed in the trailers). Fowler is likeable, but he isn’t funny, and his romance is insufficiently engaging to see him through these expansive patches of dead air.
As I said, I’m sure everyone was having a jolly old time making Coming 2 America, but there’s barely a trace of zest or comic timing. You can see it sporadically between Murphy and Hall, but their lines only occasionally land. Murphy also evidently called in a load of favours, with toe-curling cameos from the likes of En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa unflatteringly recalling thirty-plus years ago and further underlining how woefully tired everything is. At least James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman have reason to be tired, being very, very old, but Murphy entirely fails to live up to his promise that the sequel is “even funnier than the first one”.
Good lines? Colin Jost struggles to justify wearing blackface: “I was Will Smith’s Aladdin, okay! There was blue face over the black face.” The barbershop reaction to Akeem’s return: “No child support for thirty years and you came back?” Akeem explaining himself to Lisa: “It was a totally honest mistake that can happen to anyone whose best friend introduced him to a strange woman who drugged him and had sex with him.” Izzi: “King Akeem, I have come to give you congratulations for locating one of your lost sperm.” It’s slim pickings, though. An inert dinner table scene sums Coming 2 America up really, an unflattering reminder of how uproarious an on-form Murphy was in another dinner table scene in The Nutty Professor.
Murphy will surely be grateful for the plandemic, given this stinker, since he’d have mustered pitiful box office had it received the intended cinema release. And on Amazon, Coming 2 America's sure to at least have subscribers investigating out of curiosity. The PG-13/12 certificate doesn’t deserve the blame, although there’s an undeniable aversion to anything remotely edgy, provocative or potentially offensive. The blame rests with a fat, middle aged Murphy who doesn’t have any urge to prove himself any more.