Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Prime Time: Coming 2 America (2021)

Coming along over thirty years after the original, Coming 2 America also comes after a lot of years that led to a decline in the star status of Eddie Murphy. And there's no John Landis here. So I can understand why fans would be wary.

Murphy once again plays Prince Akeem (as well as many other characters), based in his homeland with his family, a wife and three daughters. As his father (James Earl Jones) passes away, it comes to light that Akeem may well have a male child from his time in America. This was all thanks to his loyal manservant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall). And a male child is apparently required to take over the throne from Akeem, despite the strength and intelligence of his eldest daughter, Meeka (KiKi Layne). Under pressure from the neighbouring General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), Akeem finds his son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), and brings him back, along with his mother (Mary, played by Leslie Jones), and his Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).

While it's not the funniest comedy film released in the past few years, not by a long shot, Coming 2 America manages to remain consistently amusing throughout, as well as taking moments to celebrate some of the popular art and culture of African Americans. Director Craig Brewer keeps everything moving along nicely enough, with the only main flaw being an unnecessary flashback or two that features a de-aged Murphy on a previously-unseen stage of his adventure that made up the first movie. Remember when movies had to use smart camera positioning, make-up, and stand-ins to do that kind of thing? New technology isn't always the best option. 

The script, by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, stays largely on point, with the focus this time around being on the need for old patriarchies to be shaken up in order for any real progress to be made. Akeem once again wrestles with traditions, wanting to move forward while remaining respectful, and his life is nicely juxtaposed with the life that his son has known, but this is a male-dominated film with a loud message about gender equality, and the casting of the supporting roles helps immensely with that.

Layne is superb, trying to keep her grace and her cool while justifiably angry at the old rules keeping her sidelined. Nomzamo Mbatha is equally wonderful as Mirember, the royal groomer who has some strong views on the way things should be run. You get cameos from En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, and it's nice that they didn't try to recast Shari Headley (Lisa, the love of Akeem's life). Although not always front and centre, Headley is the one person often influencing the way that Akeem thinks and acts. Then you have Jones, who is a lot of fun for pretty much every minute she's onscreen. Murphy and Hall are having a lot of fun, whether in their main roles or portraying some of the many faces familiar to fans of the first film (the barbers return, as well as one or two other firm favourites). Fowler is a worthy addition, and he often outshines a lively Morgan (the wide-eyed youth just plays a bit better than the loud-mouthed, cocky, uncle), but it's a huge treat to watch Snipes having so much role as the menacing-but-rictus-grinned General who looks set to wage war.

There are no major set-pieces, and very few BIG laughs throughout, unlike the first film, but this is a good way to do a belated comedy sequel. You get to spend some time reacquanting yourself with some very likeable characters, and there are lots of call backs to keep you smiling. I've seen many people complain about it, which is just down to personal taste, but I've been struggling to wonder why some have wanred others away from it so strongly. Personally, I'd tentatively recommend it. It's an easy one to enjoy in company for an evening's entertainment.


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