Coming to America (1988)

In March, there is a film releasing on Amazon Prime that is a sequel of a movie that came out 33 years ago, which makes me feel really old. Next month see the release of Coming 2 America, the sequel to Coming to America which starred Eddie Murphy as a prince of the African country of Zamunda who comes to New York to find a bride, became something to revisit and remind me of its goodness.

Prince Akeem wanted to find a woman who he loved, who was more than just a subservient, who had a mind of her own. His father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) had an arranged marriage waiting for his son, but Akeem wanted. Accompanied with his loyal servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem headed to Queens, New York to find his own potential queen.

To avoid any gold-diggers, Akeem decided to pretend to be destitute, a decision that did not sit well with Semmi. Eventually, Akeem met a woman named Lisa (Shari Headley), who works with her father Cleo McDowell (John Amos) at his fast food restaurant, McDowell’s, not to be confused with McDonald’s. Lisa was already dating a selfish and arrogant jerk, Darryl (Eriq La Salle). Lisa quickly is attracted to the kind and regal nature of Akeem, who takes a job mopping the floor at the restaurant.

Coming to America had always been a favorite of Eddie Murphy’s oeuvre for me, however, watching this film today, I saw some of the drawbacks to it. It did feel long, and I thought there could have been some scenes early in the film that were droppable. It did take Akeem quite a chunk of time to get to New York and he did not find Lisa for awhile. While that makes sense, some of the scenes that were included felt unnecessary.

Still, this movie is very funny and tells a sweet story with Akeem and Lisa. Their relationship felt real and they were very much worth rooting for. I might have liked a little bit more with them, since it seemed as they wound up together pretty quickly. Maybe some of the other scenes could have been edited out to include more of the interactions with Akeem and Lisa.

Eddie Murphy is fantastic here, truly embracing the sweetness of the character of Akeem. He is the most likable character Eddie has ever played, and his sweet attitude bordering on nativity. However, the film does an excellent job of showing Akeem as the fish out of water without letting him cross over into parody.

Murphy and Hall played multiple characters here, including people at the barber shop, and I am not sure that does much for the film. It certainly showed off the skills of these two actors, but it may have taken away from the narrative.

The trailers for Coming 2 America have not looked promising to me, and most times when a sequel comes this long after the original, the results are iffy. Still, Coming to America continues to be a classic and a great film to enjoy.

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