Over 30 years have passed since the comedic pairing of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in “Coming to America” brought tears of laughter to moviegoers. The story was a masterpiece that told the story of Prince Akeem of Zamunda coming to Queens to find a bride who could love him despite his background in royalty. The prince fell in love with Lisa McDowell for being a beautiful and intelligent woman, and she fell in love with him thinking that he was a wise and compassionate man who comes from a family of goat herders. However, Akeem’s father wanted him to go through with an arranged marriage for political gain as per tradition, while Lisa’s father wanted her to marry into a rich American family so she wouldn’t have to struggle with money like he did. It was a modern telling of the age-old story of star crossed lovers, made hilarious by over-the-top characters and cultural differences between New Yorkers and Zamundans.
The 2021 sequel did not live up to its predecessor. “Coming 2 America” takes place 30 years after Lisa and Akeem are married, with the couple having three daughters and Akeem’s father near death and ready to hand over the throne to his son. Akeem then finds out that he has a bastard son in New York, who he needs to bring back to Zamunda as a male heir because a witch told him that he would be assassinated and Zamunda would be taken over by its neighbors. Meanwhile, General Izzi of Nexdoria (who is also the brother of the woman that Akeem refused to marry in the first movie) threatens Akeem with a militant dance troupe, giving him the ultimatum: war or the marriage of their children.
After finding his son, Lavelle, Akeem tries to parent his new son while Lavelle and his mom Mary adjust to life in Zamunda. Lavelle has to learn to be a prince by learning the country’s history and cutting a lion’s whiskers, Mary has tension with Lisa over Akeem, Akeem and his family have tension over him having another family, Akeem and Lavelle’s uncle argue over who the father figure is, Lavelle and Akeem’s older daughter have tension since she is more qualified to be heir but is a woman, General Izzi continues to threaten Akeem and Lavelle contemplates marrying Izzi’s daughter for political gain versus marrying his royal groomer for love. Confusing? Yeah.
My biggest problem with the sequel is that in “Coming to America,” Akeem is only 21 years old and far beyond his years in wisdom, looking past tradition and wanting a woman who has her own thoughts and wishes. He didn’t want a wife, he wanted a partner. 30 years later, he’s not listening to or consulting with his wife and is following tradition to make a son he’s never met the heir, while any of his three daughters would be more qualified. This isn’t the same guy.
There’s also the issue of too many storylines. This was a movie that was introducing new characters and tried to introduce conflict and resolution between every single one of them. To make it worse, the movie brought back Reverend Brown, Randy Watson, the barbers, the rapping twins, a royal bathers’ scene and the McDowell’s restaurant in order to channel the nostalgia. On top of that, there were unnecessary dance numbers, Morgan Freeman and Dikembe Mutumbo were featured in for no reason, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa got to perform and Oha executed the same singing gag from the first movie.
The movie was too convoluted. The entire General Izzy storyline could have been removed, especially since he’s shown as a powerful military figure but is quickly dispatched by Akeem’s daughters and Semmi. From this defeat, Izzy decides to instead try diplomacy. So, an entire war was subverted because the eccentric General got beat up.
Lavelle having to run a gauntlet to become prince was also unnecessary: Akeem begged him to come to Zamunda to become the prince but as soon as the plane landed, Lavelle was left to fend for himself, aided only by a hairdresser whom he falls in love with. The storyline of Lavelle wanting to marry for love was also useless — we learned this lesson in the first movie over 30 years ago. To add insult to injury, Lavelle chose to not marry Izzy’s daughter because she followed his every command — the same exact joke that set up “Coming to America” all those years ago.
“Coming to America” was a simple story about two people from opposite sides of the world coming together and falling in love in Queens, overcoming tradition and family issues. The comedy fit into interactions between well-defined characters in an easy-to-follow story.
On the other hand, “Coming 2 America” was a hot mess. With a father and son meeting each other for the first time, competing love interests, a secret family, a crazy general with revenge on his mind, feuding siblings, Akeem being drugged and sexually assaulted 30 years ago and now having to deal with consequences as if it were his fault and many other wild branches of this story, this wasn’t the sequel that the movie deserved. It was nostalgia-baiting. It was messy. It was Jerry Springer in Zamunda, and we aren’t any better off because of it.