Coming 2 America, the new sequel to the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy vehicle, is a celebration. Of the original film, of African American culture, and specifically of Eddie Murphy himself, one of the greatest comedians of all time.
We’re at the dawn of the second Eddie Murphy renaissance; following a few dud years after his initial incandescent success, there was a moment where Murphy was looking at a “serious actor” second act after his critically acclaimed turn in 2007’s Dreamgirls, which scored him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. That success didn’t yield further results, and we had a few quiet, disappointing years until 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name reminded us that, yes, Eddie Murphy is a wildly charismatic performer, and our screens are much improved by having him on them.
It’s Dolemite director Craig Brewer on the reins again here, indicating that Murphy and Brewer’s creative chemistry is responsible for this nascent third (fourth?) act. Stylistically, Brewer’s authorial voice is muted here; smartly, he’s content to sit back and let Murphy, his friends, and co-stars do the work. Narratively, Coming 2 America is pretty much what you’d expect. Decades after the first film, which saw Murphy’s Prince Akeem Joffer of the fictional African nation of Zamunda decamp to Queens to find himself a worthy bride, our guy is now happily married to Lisa (Shari Headley) and preparing to take over as King from his aged father, Jaffe (James Earl Jones, wonderful). It’s the next generation that’s giving him some grief; Akeem and Lisa have only had daughters, and their eldest, Meeka (KiKi Layne), can’t inherit the throne, rulership apparently being a boys’ club. In a slick bit of retconning, right-hand man Semmi (Arsenio Hall) recalls a weed-powered one-night stand that Akeem had on his first trip to U.S., which may have produced an heir. And so, we’re off.