Coming to America is an iconic film directed by John Landis and based on a story originally created by Eddie Murphy. The 1988 film was a massive box office success and, despite mixed reviews, still pulls an overall net positive—which, of course meant, that was destined to get a sequel.
Alright, time to throw on the throwback machine: Eddie Murphy stars as crown prince Akeem Joffer of the wealthy African nation of Zamunda. When his parents, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) and Queen Aoleon (Madge Sinclair), present him with an arranged queeeeen-to-beeee on his 21st birthday, Akeem decides that he wants an independent woman who loves him for him. Under the guise of “sowing his wild oats,” he and his best friend/personal aide, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), travel to Queens, where Akeem falls in love with Lisa (Shari Headley).
The film is … absolutely a product of its time, and yet a film I still am deeply fond of—with a critical eye. I especially appreciate the love story between Akeem and Lisa, since it is clear that Akeem does deeply respect Lisa for her mind and independence. That is why the premise of the sequel is … strange.
Coming 2 America, directed by Craig Brewer, from a screenplay by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, is about Akeem realizing that he has a secret son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). At the request of his father, they go to America in order to reclaim this lost heir to the kingdom of Zamunda.
Ehhhh. First of all, when did Akeem have time to have an illicit relationship with another woman in a one-night stand? That doesn’t even make sense with the premise of the film. I am already lighting a candle hoping that Leslie Jones, who is playing Lavelle’s mother, is not going to be made the butt of any gross jokes. Then there is this whole “male heir” thing. While not in the trailer itself, KiKi Layne stars as Meeka, the eldest daughter of Akeem and Lisa.
“The regalness [of Meeka] was already there in me,” Layne says in Essence. “So then I just got to let it blossom under the circumstances of the character that I was playing. What’s cool is tapping into that warrior spirit and that loyalty that I found to be very similar to Danai’s character in Black Panther. That’s one of the fun things about acting. It’s when you start to see the things that you need when going into character that are kind of already in you.”
The movie had better end with her being made the heir, because if anything, Coming to America, even while being a comedy, made it clear that Akeem did not agree with all the patriarchal attitudes of the nation. Why would he want his beloved daughter to be sidelined? Especially since Shari Headley is reprising her role as Lisa, so they are still happily married.
My money is on Semmi being the actual father.
Sequels like this just get me anxious because Coming to America was a special moment in Black culture, especially because it did depict a wealthy African nation, and following Black Panther, there were so many crossover jokes about Zamunda and Wakanda.
They obviously put a lot of money into this film, so I am hoping that it will be funny. That’s what we need in 2021.
Hopefully, Samuel L. Jackson can reprise this iconic role:
Also, just let James Earl Jones rest!
(image: Amazon Studios)
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