Away from a lavish palace party meant to celebrate his engagement, Lavell Johnson (Jermaine Fowler), Zamunda’s new heir, is complaining about the state of Hollywood’s filmmaking. He never mentioned the kinds of movies he liked, but he is outspoken about his contempt for the superhero scenes and the “sequel that no one asked”. Merimbi (Numzamu Mbatha), the nanny of the royal family and his love interest, disagrees. She says Cinema Zamondan isn’t that great, and some of these sequels aren’t too bad.
Their conversation is one of the many metajokes spread throughout “Coming 2 America,” and it’s the genius, mostly harmless, and at times super-funny of beloved 1980s comic movie. Coming to America – originally, directed by John Landis – starred Eddie Murphy as Crown Prince Akeem, who traveled to Queens, New York, to sow wild oats, accompanied by Arsenio Hall as his assistant – the camp and the comic tin, Simi.
If you remember this movie – it held up well despite some potentially irritating parts of current sensitivities – you’ll remember that the Prince fell in love with a New Yorker named Lisa (Shari Headley), whose father (John Amos) owned a fast food restaurant called McDowell’s. If you haven’t seen “Coming to America” or can’t quite remember it, the relevant background will be usefully provided here, along with some new information. At the time, apparently, there was oatmeal running away – it wasn’t until one night with Mary Johnson (Leslie Jones) that Lavelle spawned.
Akim, who has three daughters from Lisa, learns of his son’s presence during their first eventful act, as he and his queen celebrate their 30th birthday and bid farewell to King Jaffe (James Earl Jones). Complicating factors include threats from General Azi (Wesley Snipes), the aggressive ruler of the neighboring country of Nixdoria, and the patriarchal laws of Zamonda, which stipulated that the incumbent of the throne be male. Lavelle, a college dropout and part-time ticket taker with some kind father’s charm, looks like the answer to the kingdom’s troubles.
But the laws of comedy, of course, require more problems to arise, and the multi-author script provides a lot. Akim and Sammy are back in New York for a very short visit. The masterpieces of “Coming to America” can hardly be replicated, but this American comic from the perspective of a naive African aristocrat could have used a more active modernization. It’s good to catch up with some minor comic characters – the barbershop men that Hall and Murphy have played in aging prosthetics, in particular – but any time a mature satirical opportunity appears, “Coming 2,” directed by Craig Brewer, works the other way.
But irony may not really be the point. It’s not hard, for now, to find a comedy with a sharper edge, or a tougher view of American dysfunction. “Coming 2” – unlike Brewer and Murphy’s previous collaboration, “Dolemite Is My Name” – is a sweet and silly celebration of black folk culture, with sincere respect for history and welcoming the new generation. (Speaking of “Dolemite,” this movie offers further testament to Snipes’ absolute comedic genius.)
Gladys Knight, En Vogue, and Salt N Pepa all appear (as themselves, in good vocal form), as does KiKi Layne, a rising star (see “If Beale Street Talk”) who plays Meeka, Akim’s older daughter. Generational conflict may lead the story, but the atmosphere is a party of all ages, a mixed family reunion with Tracy Morgan as a wacky uncle.
However, like Lavelle and Mirembe at the big party, you might be tempted to wander into the long, soft medium, when music and jokes are pinned down in favor of a loud, vulgar, and self-help plot. Coming 2 takes three-quarters of its time to get to where “Coming to” began: rejecting an arranged marriage in favor of searching for a soulmate. Feminist gestures in the end have an obligatory feeling, let’s all meet our heads in unison, that a bolder movie, or a movie that has a stronger idea of what it wants, will not be necessary. I fear Lavelle’s mockery of the sequels is not being challenged very effectively.
I have one more thing to say, though, which in itself might be a sufficient recommendation: Ruth E. Carter. One of the greatest costume designers ever, she won an Oscar for “Black Panther” and can only win another Oscar for the warlord costumes for General Azi. (Don’t skip the credits, or you’ll miss it in a kilt.) The art of “Coming 2 America” is entirely in fashion, which is both faux depictions of modern globalized style and an inspiring homage to it as well. As perfectly verified examples of a culture clash that the movie itself could not fully imagine.
Do not miss it!
“Coming 2 America” is available to stream on Netflix
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?