“Coming 2 America” is a predictable but passable nostalgia trip

Sequel to the classic Queens comedy is entrenched in the past, for better and worse


Photo Courtesy/ YouTube FilmSelect Video

Truth be told, I don’t know if I should have had high expectations for a sequel to Eddie Murphy’s Queens-based classic, “Coming to America,” more than 30 years later. But I’d be lying if I said they didn’t have me at Prince Akeem grinning through his mustache in his “I Heart NY” emblazoned Mets jacket one more time.

Thirty years after his trip to Queens to find his bride, Lisa, Akeem (Murphy) becomes king of fictional African country Zamunda and hopes to make a pact with General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the wacky dictator of neighboring “Nextdoria.” At odds with decades of Zamundan tradition, Akeem has only daughters and no male heir — at least that he knows of — when it is revealed he has an illegitimate son named Lavelle, from a one-night-stand in which he was drugged.

Most of the conflict comes from Akeem struggling to shirk centuries of sexist Zamundan tradition by championing Lavelle over his daughters simply because he is the male heir. Thankfully, Akeem is not transformed into an unfeeling patriarch, but his trademark sweetness and innocence remain mostly absent in this film. Mirroring Akeem’s conflict from the first movie, Lavelle has to choose between marrying to please his family’s wishes, or marrying for love.

For a movie that goes on to convince viewers that the writers were likely paid by each joke about wokeness or how “things have changed,” the fact that Akeem was date-raped is laughed off and accepted by every character sets an uncomfortable tone from the beginning and is hard to reconcile. 

The takedown of sexism in modern culture would be appreciable if it weren’t played so safe. All viewers get is Akeem’s oldest daughter being an underappreciated badass and Lisa miraculously convincing Akeem to forsake his kingdom’s misogynistic tradition. It may be foolish to expect profound reflections on such issues, but when they’re addressed so blandly it makes for easy, familiar and unthoughtful comedy.

In effect, the strongest elements of “Coming 2 America” play more like the cinematic equivalent of a greatest hits album than parts of their own film. Callbacks to the original film abuse the sensitivity of the nostalgia bone but still sometimes hit the comfortably-silly sweet spot. But new viewers may be understandably less amused.

The film seems to do everything in its power to recommend the first movie, and well, it should. Only then can you smirk as Lisa’s father opens a McDowell’s (not McDonald’s) restaurant in Zamunda; only then can you fully appreciate Murphy and Arsenio Hall returning to fat suits and unholy amounts of makeup to reprise beloved side characters, like the old men from the My-T-Sharp barbershop and “Sexual Chocolate” lead singer Randy Watson.

It’s also a joy to see the ensemble cast mostly intact decades later — even ageless wonder James Earl Jones — plus the new additions of Snipes, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan. 

If jokes sail past your head for not having seen the first movie, at least wait with bated breath for the Johnny Thunderbird reference.

“Coming 2 America” is a Prime Video original. The original 1988 film is also currently available to stream on the service.