Coming 2 America is the long-awaited sequel to the 1988 Eddie Murphy blockbuster Coming to America. The difference, as you can see, is that the new movie has the number “2” in the title instead of the word “to.” Unfortunately, it never gets much more clever than that. Given that it's taken over thirty years for this follow-up to come to fruition, you'd think the script would be smarter and funnier than it is. After a strong start, the picture quickly falls into a rut, becoming increasingly labored as it goes on.
Murphy returns as Akeem, who is now the king of Zamunda. He and queen wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have raised three strong, intelligent daughters, but no sons. According to his country's laws, a female cannot be the heir to the kingdom. That opens the door for General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), a deranged military leader who just happens to be the older brother of Akeem's intended bride in the original. Still bitter about his family losing the chance to affiliate with royalty, he threatens a military strike.
Then Akeem discovers that he does, in fact, have a son he never knew about back in the United States. Together with faithful friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall), he returns to Queens, New York and tracks down his bastard child, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), a streetwise ticket scalper. Lavelle is all in favor of returning to Zamunda, considering the wealth that awaits him. He brings along mother Mary (Leslie Jones) and uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan), neither of whom have any business in a royal setting.
This is the moment when Coming 2 America falls apart. Only a short bit of the movie is set in America. Most of it takes place in Zamunda. Comedy in the original sprang from Akeem being a fish out of water. In the comfort of his homeland, he's a lot less funny. Lavelle is the fish out of water this time, although putting a non-royal into a palace is a lot less hilarious than taking a royal out of one and dropping him into Queens.
Murphy and Hall displayed great chemistry in the 1988 movie. Why the sequel often keeps them apart – or, at the very least, puts them in groups where they don't interact with each other much – is a mystery. The movie suffers from a lack of their interplay. Longtime friends in real life, the two comedians have a solid rapport that can make almost anything hilariously funny. Coming 2 America only sporadically gives them a chance to utilize it. I find it unfathomable that the film would sideline its biggest strength.
The back half of the movie gets bogged down with Lavelle finding himself in a predicament very similar to the one Akeem was in three decades ago. We know how everything will play out long before the picture gets there, because...well, we've already been told that story. Fowler is a likeable young actor. He is not, however, Eddie Murphy. Watching Lavelle struggle to choose between his head and his heart has considerably less comic impact than watching Akeem do it.
Pleasures in Coming 2 America are found around the edges. Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan earn some laughs with their outrageous schtick. It's fun to see the old guys in the barbershop (also played by Murphy and Hall) again, especially since they comment on recent politics. Wesley Snipes is a kick as the cheerfully deranged Izzi. And, of course, any fan of the original (myself included) will take a certain amount of delight being with Akeem and Semmi again, even if their adventure this time isn't as rewarding. You get an undeniable level of comfort from seeing old friends on the screen.
Coming to America set the bar very high. Coming 2 America doesn't clear it. The movie is mildly entertaining, but also relatively disappointing.
out of four
Coming 2 America is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and drug content. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.