By Laurie Coker
We need humor, especially now. I decent, belly laugh can raise spirits and is priceless to the soul. Over thirty years after the Coming to America had us rolling in the aisles, the cast is back, and then some in Coming 2 America. This newest film offers up culture-clash comedy that is intermittently but solidly funny, with some delightfully inspired gags spattered in between. But the true joy comes in with a barrage of cameos and shout-out to characters, lines, and moments from the original.
Decades after coming to America, Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Eddie Murphy) must venture back to America to find his ‘bastard’ son Lavelle Johnson (Jermaine Fowler) of a whore (Leslie Jones). He and his lovely wife, Lisa (Shari Headley) have three beautiful and talented daughters, but Zamunda law says the crown can only pass to a male heir, reiterated by Akeem’s father, the king (James Earl Jones) is on his deathbed. Akeem brings his son and his mother back to Zamunda and the culture clash causes most of the comedy as Queens, NY meets the royal life in a big way. True to the original love story, Lavelle meets, (Nomzamo Mbatha), his royal stylist, who grounds him as he struggles to find his way as a prince.
Adding humor, Wesley Snipes plays General Izzi, who looks to gain some control in his country by trying to marry off family members to Akeem’s daughters and his son, when the boy is discovered. Izzi’s sister still “barking” mad, makes a show, but it is his oldest daughter who he means to match to Lavelle. Izzi’s band of soldiers don impressive weapons, but their training is more “dance, dance, revolution (seriously) and fancy footwork than armed combat. Broadway-style musical productions mesmerize and delight.
Taking the place of John Landis, Craig Brewer works from a script by original screenwriters Barry Blaustein and Davis Sheffield return, joined by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris. They cleverly weave together an African and American culture clash, poking fun on all the right beats. There are awesome sets, massive musical numbers, familiar faces and silly antics. The entire cast delights, although they waste Tracy Lawrence (Lavelle’s Uncle Remus) and other great comedians. The real scene stealers at the costumes by Oscar-winning designer Ruth E. Carter. They are remarkable – elaborate, vibrant, and changed in every scene.
In terms of sequels, Coming 2 America does a far better job than most – take the recent Bill & Ted mess. Its talented cast, including several others from the first film- —Arsenio Hall, John Amos, Louie Anderson, and, Paul Bates along with newcomers Snipes, Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Kiki Layne who plays Murphy’s oldest daughter all come together in an entertaining and vividly spectacular display of fun and frivolity. I am placing a B- in my grade book. I needed this kind of folly!