And I loved it!
Two years ago I wrote a post here listing My Top Ten Favorite Eddie Murphy Movies, and number one on my list was Coming To America. At the time the news of a sequel was new, and I expressed my concern about the purported storyline:
In the sequel, Akeem learns about a long lost son, and must return to America to meet his unlikely heir to the throne of Zamunda.
Huh?!? How could he have a long lost son in America when it was clear in the first film that he was not interested in any of the American women he encountered except for Lisa? It sounds like they’re planning to do some retconning here and I’m not sure I like the sound of that. But I’ll try to keep an open mind until the film is actually made and I see it.
Well, let me just say from the start that the retcon worked. They even managed to use CGI to de-age Eddie and Arsenio and shot some scenes that looked like they could have been deleted scenes from the original film, which were shown in flashbacks. So the continuity-freak in me was well satisfied with that aspect.
I’m not going to give any significant spoilers. If you’ve seen the trailers you know the basic storyline. James Earl Jones returns as King Jaffe who is dying, so Akeem is finally about to be crowned the new King of Zamunda. We see that in the 30 years he’s been married to Lisa (Shari Headly) they’ve had three daughters, eldest daughter Meeka (Kiki Layne), Omma (Eddie’s daughter Bella), and Tinashi (Akiley Love). But Zamundan law says that only a male can inherit the throne, and without a male heir Akeem will be seen as weak. So when he finds out about this unknown son he and Semmi return to Queen to find him and bring him to Zamunda to become the Prince and heir.
Jermaine Fowler plays Lavelle, the son. I’d never seen him before in anything else, but he does a good if not spectacular job. With a star-studded cast like this, it’s hard for a newbie to stand out, so I’ll cut him some slack. But it’ll be interesting to see how his career progresses after this. I was never the biggest fan of either Leslie Jones or Tracy Morgan, who play Lavelle’s mother and uncle who both accompany him to Zamunda, but they were both hilarious in this.
Wesley Snipes is General Izzi, he’s the ruler of a neighboring African country called Nextdoria (no, I can’t believe that they thought that name would be funny), and in another interesting nod to continuity he is the brother of Imani, the woman who was arranged to marry Akeem in the first film (played again by Vanessa Bell Calloway), who resents Akeem for rejecting his sister all those years ago, and harbors desires to conquer Zamunda himself. Although known mostly for his action films and dramatic roles, you may forget that he did some comedies early on in his career, including Major League and White Men Can’t Jump, and he shows that he still has great comedic timing here, as he steals every scene that he’s. Teyana Taylor plays his daughter, Bopoto, who he offers to marry to Lavelle, to unite their kingdoms.
After Lavelle passes several rituals to earn his spot in the royal family, he is crowned the Prince and named Akeem’s heir, and a wedding is planned between Lavelle and Bopoto. But the longer he stays in Zamunda, the more Lavelle learns that it’s not quite as enlightened as it appears, and he faces hostility from Meeka, who feels that should be the rightful heir to the throne, and then a rival love interest develops, which makes him question if he actually wants to go through with his arranged marriage to Bopoto, even though if he withdraws that could lead to war between Zamunda and Nextdoria.
And that’s the big conflict, which you’ll have to watch the film to see how it is resolved. Again, personally, I loved it. Most of the significant cast members who were still alive from the first film returned, including Eddie and Arsenio playing all of the extra roles they played in the first film. Like Eddie, Arsenio hasn’t lost a single step as far as his performance goes, and he and Eddie’s chemistry is as sharp as ever. The film had plenty of callbacks to the original film that all felt natural and not forced, including some surprising cameos (I won’t say, for example, what role Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost plays, but it’s very clever in how it ties into the original film), and some major film and music stars appear as themselves.
I’m not saying it’s perfect, there are some weak spots, a few jokes that fall flat (specifically I’ll say that none of the barbershop scenes were as funny as I’d expected), and some things that didn’t make as much sense (like, apparently, Zamunda has no army of its own, since General Izzi is able to enter the country and walk right into the royal palace with his own armed soldiers with impunity), but overall it’s an enjoyable sequel that adds to the story of the original film without diminishing it, so I consider it a success.
P.S. Make sure to sit through the entire end-credits.