REVIEW

Coming 2 America may have younger folk scratching their heads over the original Eddie Murphy comedy's 1988 success

Coming 2 America (M equivalent, 110 minutes)

Two stars

Back in the day, stand-up comedian-turned-Saturday Night Live performer-turned-movie star Eddie Murphy sat perched at the very top of the Hollywood firmament.

He wasn't the best actor but he had such charisma and he smirked and laughed his way through some of the biggest box office performers over the mid 1980s

Three Beverley Hills Cop films, Trading Places, The Golden Child all printed money for their studios, and with Coming to America in 1988, we saw Murphy stretching into some great character performance, playing not only an African prince but multiple characters in the film under heavy makeup.

Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America. Picture: Amazon Studios

Eddie Murphy in Coming 2 America. Picture: Amazon Studios

Thirty-plus years later, Eddie Murphy and his pals are back, revisiting this once-beloved set of characters.

But are they so beloved, so remembered, to warrant the obvious expense of the production, and will audiences care all these decades later?

Despite a few career lulls, Murphy remains a strong draw for audiences of all generations, thanks to his voice-work as Donkey in the Shrek films, but younger audiences may be perplexed at what their parents or grandparents see in this weak sequel.

In the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda, Prince Akeem (Murphy) has succession on his mind. His father, the King (James Earl Jones) is dying, and Akeem laments that his country's law will not allow his three very capable daughters (Kiki Lane, Akiley Love and Bella Murphy - Eddie's real-life daughter) to succeed him to the crown.

This presents an opportunity for the ruler of Nexdoria, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) to present his son for marriage to one of Akkem's daughters to unite their countries, and implying he will invade if the marriage does not occur.

Coming to the rescue is Akeem's faithful servant confidant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to inform him that many years earlier on their trip to Queens NY, Akeem did in fact father a son who might be brought to take up his line of succession to the Zamundan throne and restore peace.

Akeem and Semmi jump on a plane to New York to meet Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and his mother Mary (Leslie Jones) and whisk them back to Africa, where Lavelle is encouraged to marry General Izzi's daughter instead.

We were recently treated to a many-decades-later sequel to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, a fun, silly time, and this film does capture that same nostalgic sense of fun.

Once again Murphy and Hall don heavy makeup and play multiple characters, and these make for both the best and worst scenes of the film.

Their Queens barbershop characters, funny old men bickering amongst each other, are still funny, while other characters that probably weren't brilliant in the first film completely wear out their welcome.

There are cameos aplenty, the most fun of which come from En Vogue and Salt N Pepa, along with Morgan Freeman.

Murphy's Saturday Night Live alumni Leslie Jones and Colin Jost make for some of the film's funnier characters and stronger moments.

An early scene in the film with Jost and Fowler demonstrates how uneven this film's writing is.

Jost plays an entitled white Wall Street type interviewing Lavelle for a job, and the implication is that he is a descendant of the conniving Wall Street traders from Trading Places.

Jost's character underestimates Lavelle, throwing racist stereotype expectations at the black man, and Lavelle decimates him with sharp articulateness.

But his father turns up and he is whisked off to Africa; suddenly his character becomes nothing but a series of stupid stereotypes, and the good writing and character establishment in that earlier scene is gone.

It's surprising, because the script comes from Kenya Barris of Black-ish and Girls Trip fame. But the film has six names credits with story and writing and perhaps too many cooks spoil the broth.

The original film was the subject of a decades-long law suit from screenwriter Art Buchwald, who claimed the story idea was his, a trial long and interesting that uncovered some of the shadier accounting practices employed by Hollywood, and perhaps this legal hurdle is the reason this sequel is appearing about two decades too late.

But late or not, Coming 2 America has been a big success for its producer Amazon Prime, driving subscriptions to its screening service while much of its intended audience is still in lockdown and cinemas in may countries remain closed.

The M rating is my estimation based on the film's language, drug use and adult themes. As the film is only coming out on streaming, it bypasses our country's film classification laws

This story Not as funny three decades later first appeared on The Canberra Times.