After 30 years, you’d think the sequel to one of Eddie Murphy’s best and beloved comedies would get a fair shake. It doesn’t. “Coming 2 America” is a disappointing mix of rehashed jokes and missed opportunities.
Welcome back to Zamunda, the land where Prince Akeem (Murphy) lives with his Princess-from-Queens Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters. They’ve seemed to live a happy life after meeting and falling in love in 1988’s “Coming to America,” but a dark cloud is forming. Akeem’s father King Joffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) is dying and the tyrannical General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) in neighboring country Nextdoria- how’s that for a bad name- is ready to invade Zamunda upon the King’s passing.
Akeem and his faithful right-hand man Semmi (Arsenio Hall) learn from the Shaman (also Hall in Rick Baker make-up) caring for the King that Akeem has an illegitimate son living in Queens, New York. King Joffe warns Akeem that without a male heir and Izzi’s plan to assassinate Akeem should he become King, Zamunda would fall under Izzi’s rule. With the Shaman’s cryptic message to “follow the Thunderbird,” Akeem and Semmi return to New York to find Akeem’s long-lost son and arrange a marriage with Izzi’s daughter (Teyana Taylor) to keep the peace.
Even if you’re looking for a nostalgic trip back to what you loved about “Coming to America,” you’re not treated to what made Murphy’s fish out-of-water romantic fable so good. There’s no mistaken identity angle and Murphy and Hall don’t have a lot of scenes together- since they’re a good buddy pair, “Coming 2 America” doesn’t take advantage of them as it should. Finding Akeem’s son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) much too quickly, the story makes Lavelle its center. Even introducing new characters in Lavelle’s mom and uncle (played by Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan) doesn’t replace the Murphy-Hall chemistry.
If you enjoyed the culture clash from the original, Zamundans are funnier in New York. With Lavelle experiencing the culture clash as a New Yorker in Zamunda, a lot of what he experiences you’ve already seen: the royal bathers, elaborate dance numbers in the palace ballroom, wild animals in your backyard. Lavelle having to take tests as initiation to becoming Prince also misses its mark comedically: had the trials to become Prince been handled as a primal African version of what Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd went through in their test montage in “Spies Like Us,” it would have been funnier.
Of course, the big question: do Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate make their appearance? You bet. Had the movie been shorter, they’d be worth the wait. But after being bogged down by Lavelle’s own romantic fable unfolding as Akeem’s sentimental scruples resurface, you’ll barely be able to catch the best surprise after the credits roll: “She’s Your Queen To Be” sung by a Grammy and Oscar-winning artist. “Coming 2 America” should have been a bigger smile than the smirk you give hearing the same joke twice. Ironically, in the land where Murphy makes the law, anything that can go wrong does.