Review: Coming 2 America

Sequels are rarely good. It’s one of the toughest things to do in Hollywood. For every Terminator 2, Rush Hour 2, or The Dark Knight, there is a Caddyshack II, Basic Instinct 2, or Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj. Most sequels are high risk and low reward.

Coming 2 America is the latest Hollywood classic to go through the sequel machine. 30+ years after the Coming to America, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) are back in Queens in search of Akeem’s son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler).

A lot of the original cast has returned – John Amos, Louis Anderson, Shari Headley, and James Earl Jones. The newcomers include Leslie Jones as Mary (Lavelle’s mother), Tracy Morgan (Lavelle’s uncle), Wesley Snipes as General Izzi (leader of Nextdoria), Teyana Taylor (Izzi’s daughter), Nomzamo Mbatha (the royal groomer),and Kiki Layne as Princess Meeka (Akeem’s daughter who wants to be heir to the throne).

The plot is simple…Akeem learns he has a son in Queens. After King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) passes, Akeem is fearful of General Izzi’s assassination attempt since there is no heir to the throne. He travels to Queens to get Lavelle and hopefully wed him to General Izzi’s daughter Bopoto. There’s also a “princely test” Lavelle has to pass.

Coming 2 America attempts to run back everything that made the first film a classic, but none of the jokes or bits work. When the jokes don’t hit the film tries to do too much with musical numbers and an avalanche of cameos. For example, when Bopoto is introduced, there’s a full musical number of Prince’s Get Off that concludes with Lavelle rapping Prince’s verse. Although it is an enjoyable dance number, it doesn’t fit the film or the characters at all. It’s one of the many moments that miss the mark.

The biggest failure in the film is the script. The new characters are one dimensional. Normally this is fine in a ridiculous comedy, however, Coming 2 America attempts to have a few emotional beats towards the end and they don’t work because of it. The film doesn’t spend enough time with Lavelle to make any of his decisions, new found love, or emotions feel earned. Not to mention how exaggerated the script makes Mary (Leslie Jones) and Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan). Two characters that could be funny are written to be aggressively annoying.

There is a good movie buried underneath all the noise. A film about Princess Meeka wanting to be the heir to the throne but not being able to because of patriarchy is interesting. They could even have Akeem facing the pressures of being king and how he’s doing more of the same as King of Zamunda. All of this could be happening while General Izzi is trying to invade. Coming 2 America briefly touches on these ideas as plot points to move the film along and doesn’t spend much time exploring them.

Despite all the familiar faces and characters, amazing wardrobe and cameos, Coming 2 America misses the mark. It suffers from the problem most sequels have, it tries to recreate the magic from the first film. It’ll never match that, so why not try something new? The film’s attempts to ride the wave of nostalgia only makes you want to watch the original and isn’t enough to keep audiences engaged for 110 minutes.

Grade: C