I have only seen Coming to America once before. I watched it as part of my Throwback Thirty series during my 30th birthday blog celebration. I know that there is a lot of love for the film but it didn’t really do much for me. It’s sad that in 2021, its all-Black cast still feels so ground-breaking. It’s also important to note how important the film was and still is in terms of Black art. It’s not that I’m dismissing its entire existence. I just didn’t really think it was that funny. So, I wasn’t exactly overjoyed to hear that a sequel was coming to Prime. Was I still going to watch it? Of course. Did I think I’d enjoy it? Not really.
You can tell that a sequel is going to be good when its released 33 years after the original and they go to all the effort of replacing the word “to” with the number in the title. What better indicator could there be that a lot of thought and effort went into this film? Instead of those dull and unnecessary sequels that just try to sponge off the original film’s status to make easy money. Of course, it’s okay that Coming 2 America is something of a desperate cash-grab because it’s self-aware. Yep, partway through the film, two characters discuss the endless stream of remakes and sequels in Hollywood. It’s clearly meant to be a cheeky moment but it’s just aggravating. There’s a smugness to it that really go hand-in-hand with what you’re seeing.
I will say, that this film does try hard to correct some of the problems with the first film. There is something of an attempt to present women as real people and to address the patriarchal imbalance. The only problem is, none of it feels genuine or meaningful. It’s just virtue signalling. There is no discourse here. No attempt at starting a conversation. It’s just ticking boxes so people don’t complain about it. The first film felt outdated and this is clearly an attempt to bring these characters into 2021. It just doesn’t really work. They’ve done the least that they possibly can and it just feels lazy. But, considering this whole film seems lazy, I can’t say that I’m shocked or saddened by it.
Like so many recent sequels, Coming 2 America decides that the easiest way to go is to retread familiar ground. So much of this film feels like fan service rather than an original and exciting story. With Akeem having now reached middle-age, he has the worries of a future ruler and a father. Having been gifted with 3 daughters instead of a male heir, he is under increasing pressure to find the next Prince of Zamunda. Luckily, when he was in American the last time, he had a one-night stand that everyone conveniently forgot about. A one-night stand that produced a son. So, Akeem and Semmi must return to Queens and bring him back with them.
Of course, all of the characters from the first film pop-up again and Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall get the chance to dress up as plenty of different characters. We’re also treated to some flashback clips of the first film that really do help draw out the running time without the need to come up with a new story. The main problem here is that the film tries to fall back on old stereotypes. The first film found humour due to differences between America and Africa. America was the modern land full of new and exciting ideas. Now, we’re meant to believe that nothing has changed. As if time hasn’t moved on at all. As though the lessons learnt in the previous film meant nothing.
It’s not that this is a truly terrible film but it does little to try and justify its existence. I guess you could argue that it tries to speak up about lots of current issues but it never really gets to the heart of any of them. It never does enough to throw new light on any of the subjects in question. It’s just all a bit messy. Any humour found along the way kind of feels accidental. Partly because Murphy is little more than a side note here. He doesn’t really do anything worthwhile and, to be honest, neither does this film.