It’s a sequel to a classic thirty years later, but Bill and Ted 3, this ain’t.
It’s been 30 years since Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) traveled to Queens, New York, with his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his bride, Lisa (Shari Headley). His dying father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), reveals that when Akeem went to America, he was drugged and sexually assaulted by a woman named Mary Junson (Leslie Jones), resulting in a son named Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). As Akeem becomes king, he is threatened by the ruler of the kingdom of Nexdoria, General Izzi (Wesley Snipes). Akeem travels to America to find Lavelle so that he can use him to broker peace with General Izzi, much to the chagrin of Akeem’s daughters Meeka, Omma, and Tinashe (KiKi Layne, Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love). Hijinks will ensue.
Coming to America is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. It’s a command performance by Eddie Murphy at the peak of his career, and that was a hell of a peak, combining with Arsenio Hall in roles that would seem impossible for most actors. The supporting cast in it was amazing, from James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair as Akeem’s parents to John Amos and Louie Anderson as the staff of McDowell’s, one of the funniest joke ideas in the film. It’s a ridiculous premise that is played straight at all times and somehow still works on almost every level. Hell, I owned a t-shirt from the fake band Sexual Chocolate at one point. This movie holds up better than almost any 80s comedy, mostly because a lot of the humor is just timeless and the story of a person trying to buck stupid traditions is almost always relevant.
Unfortunately, there really was not much of a story left to tell after that one, which meant that this sequel had to come up with something out of whole cloth. While some films, like Bill and Ted 3, can find a way to make the time gap from the previous story into an element that makes it even more relevant, this film instead mostly undid the point of the last one. In this movie, Akeem has to essentially adopt Lavelle because he needs a son, as Zamundan law dictates that the throne can only pass patrilineally. Rather than just ignoring this as a stupid rule that has no place in the modern world, the same thing that he did in the original movie, we instead watch an entire film of Akeem apparently now being the same authority he rebelled against. I realize that this is not entirely inaccurate, as each generation tends to eventually be the power that the next one fights, but this movie makes it feel so forced that it seems ridiculous.
It’s even worse that it’s motivated by Wesley Snipes, who is depicted as the leader of an impoverished nation that might start a war with Zamunda. While I understand Akeem wanting to avoid bloodshed, it’s a ridiculous idea that a broke country could somehow beat what is stated to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When one country can afford an air force and the other can’t, the one without the air force doesn’t do well on the invasion. It makes Akeem, a guy who fought off a shotgun-wielding Sam Jackson with a mop, into a coward and an idiot.
Another problem is that almost all of the actual funny parts of the movie are just retreads of jokes from the first film. For example, one of the most memorable jokes in the original is watching a world-weary and depressed Akeem stand in the bath, only to watch a beautiful naked woman emerge and state “the royal penis is clean.” It’s basically the perfect shot of a person living the life that others can only dream of but not being fulfilled. In this movie, they replicate it, but with Leslie Jones… and she is VERY fulfilled. It’s a funny joke, but it lacks any actual point. Sure, seeing the old Jewish man or the return of Sexual Chocolate feel great, but ultimately it’s just rehashing what was good then and not adding anything new. There are a few new bits that work, but they’re fewer than you want.
Also, it’s weird to me that they just skip over the part where Akeem was essentially drugged and raped by Mary and, to a lesser extent, Semmi. They basically treat it as a joke, as opposed to, you know, a f*cking crime.
Overall, it’s just not a great sequel. Just watch the original again and be happy.
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