You know how there’s often a joy in watching the comedy trope of outtakes-during-the-credits? To get that one final giggle before exiting the theatre – or, currently, switching the TV off – and leaving on something of a high note, having indulged in the glee of watching actors flub their lines. When not even that can evoke a chuckle – especially outtakes involving such proven comedians as Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall – you know there’s trouble, and it was in watching the closing outtake-adorned credits of Coming 2 America that it really hit me how much this movie didn’t amuse me.
The original Coming To America has maintained relative status in the comedy genre in the 33 years since it arrived in theatres (remember those?), proving a quotable, rewatchable product that succeeded primarily off the unbridled talent of Murphy. With the actor finding himself in something of a resurgence, the idea to reunite with Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer seemed like a fine idea in theory, with the character of Akeem Joffer one of the Murphy creations many had actually wanted to see be revisited, second only to Axel Foley.
Hoping that nostalgia alone will be enough to pass 110 minutes, Coming 2 America is more cash grab than organic follow-up as it stacks its impressive, capable cast against watered down, predictable comedy. In between the type of cameos that scream “Look who we were able to get” and useless song-and-dance numbers (it’s cool to see En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa performing and all, but is it necessary?), there’s something of a plot that sees King Akeem (Murphy) back in his homeland of Zamunda, living a satisfying life with his beautiful wife (Shari Headley) and three daughters (KiKi Layne, Akiley Love, and Murphy’s real-life daughter, Bella Murphy). Under any other circumstances this would be familial bliss, but, as expressed by Akeem’s ailing father, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones), the lack of a mail heir is worrying to the future of the family’s legacy. Good thing then that Akeem’s right-hander Semmi (Hall) can reveal the 30-year-old secret he’s been harbouring in that Akeem does indeed have a male heir, the result of a drug-induced fling from their fateful American visit; Leslie Jones proves one of the film’s brightest spots as Mary, the woman who Akeem “romanced”, providing her her son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler).
Essentially a reverse narrative of the original film, Coming 2 America brings Lavelle to Africa, with Akeem hoping to induct him to their ways so he can rule without too much disruption to the family name. What takes place is pretty expected – outlandish tests to prove his courage, falling in love with the wrong girl, the rival family wanting the throne for themselves – and it all gets wrapped neatly in a PG-13 bow which, whilst not the sole reason the film doesn’t succeed, only adds to its stifled temperament. That’s not to say it’s all a waste, as there’s evident love in Murphy and Hall’s delivery, Jones is an absolute delight, Fowler exudes a likeable charm, and Wesley Snipes’s supporting turn as a rival General – and brother to a certain dog-barking almost-bride of Akeem’s – is a true scene stealing situation that livens up the film whenever he’s involved, which is clearly not enough.
I wanted so desperately to enjoy Coming 2 America, given that the first film is one I watched on repeat as a child and have such fond memories of, but even if there wasn’t a yearning for enjoyment (or even mediocrity) Brewer’s outing is a disappointing trip back to the colourful spoils of Zamunda. It’s still an absolute treat to see Murphy afforded the chance to top-line a comedy feature backed with evident confidence, but the underwhelming result here only further proves he deserves more of an opportunity to shine in projects that are more suited to his classic style of unbridled comedy.
Coming 2 America is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from March 5th, 2021.