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Review: Lions, Tigers, and Laughs Oh My -- 'Coming 2 America' Takes Us Back 2 Africa

By Jason Adams | Film | March 4, 2021 |

By Jason Adams | Film | March 4, 2021 |


Over the Paramount Mountain and through the Zamundan woods, thirty-three years later the sequel Coming 2 America has us headed back to the adorably two-dimensional palace intrigues of Eddie Murphy’s crown prince Akeem Joffer. Along for the ride his sidekick Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and a raft of familiar faces—some of them familiar because they too are again played by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall under extensive make-up and wigs. Who’s curious to know what these folks have been up to in that span? If you count yourself as an “I do!” then, well, this movie answers that question. Sometimes with terrific comedy!

The last time we saw Prince Akeem it was 1988 and he’d had his happy ending, getting hitched to his Queens princess Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley), herself heir to a local McDonalds rip-off McDowells. Cut to 2021 and they remain happily married, now with three daughters of descending size and age—only the eldest Meeka (Kiki Layne) has enough character to leave an impression, and that character is fierceness and capability. From Act One, it becomes obvious that the lesson on today’s menu will be a feminist one, where Akeem will see the value and worth of the awesome women in his life.

But first we’ve got to get through a lot of plot to get there. Akeem’s father (James Earl Jones, basically a cameo) reveals that Akeem has got an unknown male heir squirreled away, who could ascend to the throne. It turns out that on his infamous American vacation, Akeem had a sexual encounter he’d forgotten about with an outsized barfly named Mary (a very funny Leslie Jones). That led to a bastard son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), who Akeem never knew about. So before your can count the CG zebra sweeping across the CG plains it’s back to Queens to pick the boy (now a man) up and to learn him in the ways of his ancestors. And it all must be accomplished before the evil kingdom of Nextdoria, led by the swaggering General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, having a ton of fun), can catch wind of the plot and invade Akeem’s peaceful Zamundan kingdom.

The time spent in Queens this go-around is very brief. Like the legendary second Crocodile Dundee picture before it, the Coming to America sequel flips the script and has the Americans be the ones who are doing the coming, in this case to Zamunda. And so a heftier chunk of screentime is spent watching Mary and Lavelle adjust themselves to Zamundan culture. There are elaborate rituals with lions, oversized hat and hair comedy, and then of course some good old fashioned privates-scrubbing fun to be had with sexy servants under the bubble bath. (An eventual plot development does try to bridge the gap between Servants and Masters in the Coming To America universe but it’s probably better not to get to hung up on that stuff because it gets real icky real fast when you do.)

Will Akeem figure out that his extremely capable eldest daughter is right about literally everything all the time? Will the dark patriarchal past be undone in time for us to gaze upon a happier, more inclusive future? Will there be a Mustafa joke? Will a CG lion fart? Will Leslie Jones be awesomely inappropriate at every juncture, and will Wesley Snipes find an excuse to dance and grab his junk? Will there be a 90s R&B girl group reunion that will blow the mind of anyone who came-of-age around the time of the first film? Will the wig budget on this thing dwarf the GDP of several of the African countries it’s riffing on?

All signs point to yes, and good on it. Although a little bloated about its midsection—no I’m not making a joke about anyone aging in 33 damn years so stop thinking it; they all look terrific—Coming 2 America is a damn good time. Director Craig Brewer (picking up for original director John Landis) comes across as a genuine and enthusiastic fan of the 1988 film. He works in plenty of odes to the original while updating it in, well, not really surprising ways, but at least they seem entirely heartfelt. I for one was happy Princess Lisa actually gets a little to do. Headley was so charming in the original film but then never took off as a star. It’d be easy to see a situation like the next Top Gun film, where Kelly McGillis wasn’t invited back for the diabolical crime of actually aging like a human person. And for that, and for plenty of other reasons, Coming 2 America should make anybody who loved the original film a pretty happy prince, or even a princess.

Coming 2 America premieres exclusively on Prime Video on March 5.

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Image sources (in order of posting): Paramount, Amazon,