“Coming 2 America,” the thirty-three-years-in-the-making sequel to the Eddie Murphy hit, now streaming on Amazon Prime, may be the peak pandemic film. It’s a blast of nostalgia for those who seek comfort in the familiar when the world seems to have gone mad, tempered with a new, updated attitude.
Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as newly-crowned King Akeem Joffer of Zamunda and his confidante Semmi (among at least a half dozen other characters they play). The African nation is still a paradise where Akeem, his wife Queen Lisa Joffer (Shari Headley) and three daughters,
Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne), Princess Omma (Bella Murphy) and Princess Tinashe (Akiley Love), are benign and loved rulers, but there are hiccups.
With no male heir to take his place, King Akeem is vulnerable to the whims of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), leader of the nearby Nextdoria. When it appears that Akeem may have an heir from a one-night stand from his first trip to Queens, New York decades ago, the King and Semmi gas up the private jet and return to America.
There’s more plot and quite a few more laughs, but the story is so predictable, you’ve probably already figured where this story is going. It’s comfort food with a side of girl power, that plays like the first fish-out-of-water movie in reverse. Originally, a prince came to Queens to find a queen and self-awareness; now a prince comes to Zamunda to find a wife and himself.
Original screenwriters Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield along with “Black-ish” writer and producer Kenya Barris, give the people what they want, a blast of nostalgia that mostly does away with the dated sexism of the first film. There’s even some subtext about tradition vs. progress woven through the story, but let’s be real, you’re not dialling up “Coming 2 America” for the subtext. You’re here for the warm fuzzies. There’s something comforting about Murphy’s effortless way with a funny line, and while the movie isn’t exactly a knee slapper all the way through, it’s fun to see Eddie and Arsenio back in their royal robes.
Supporting work from Leslie Jones as Akeem’s loud and proud one-night-stand is laugh-out-loud-funny and Snipes, as the slightly unhinged Izzy, reaffirms that the comedic chemistry he and Murphy shared in “Dolemite Is My Name” wasn’t a fluke. Add to that a game of spot the actors reprising their roles and some new cameos—James Earl Jones! John Amos! Shari Headley! Rick Ross!—and you have peak pandemic, a movie that amiably passes the time until you can go to bed.