Film Review: Coming 2 America (2021)

Also known as: Coming 2 America: Quest (working title), Coming to America 2 (informal title)
Release Date: March 5th, 2021
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Written by: Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Justin Kanew
Based on: characters by Eddie Murphy
Music by: Jermaine Stegall
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Paul Bates, Louie Anderson, Rotimi, Nomzamo Mbatha, Clint Smith, Rick Ross, Trevor Noah, Colin Jost, Morgan Freeman, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, Dikembe Mutombo

Eddie Murphy Productions, Misher Films, New Republic Pictures, Amazon, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You must heed my words before I am gone, my son. Now, you will be king, but the throne must pass to a male heir. Akeem, it appears you have a son. He must be found.” – King Jaffe Joffer

Well, Coming 2 America has finally debuted on Amazon Prime Video, after delays and losing its theatrical release due to the ‘rona.

It’s pretty much what I expected, which was the film being an unnecessary sequel to a classic movie that couldn’t find a reason to justify its existence. But sure, there’s a part of me that really wanted this to be good even though pictures like this rarely are.

I will say that it wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be and in some regards, it exceeded my expectations. Not by much but I didn’t hate this and there were moments where I actually laughed out loud. However, as far as the jokes go, there are more misses than hits.

There are also some jokes that could potentially get this movie and its stars cancelled because everything is offensive now and comedy is dead. I found some of these jokes funny but when they make you more worried about the career of the actors saying them than generating laughs, we’re in a dark place as a society.

My biggest problem with this movie is that the story was really bad. In fact, the plot is terrible and kind of pointless by the end of the movie.

I guess the big positive is that it is kind of cool seeing these characters come back and it updates you on how their lives went after three decades. There’s also a part of me that did get wrapped up in the genuine love that these people have for one another, which is definitely real in how it transcends this mediocre film.

As hokey as the scenes between Eddie Murphy and James Earl Jones came across, as a fan of the original picture, it was kind of heartwarming. Murphy’s pep talk by John Amos towards the end of the film was also effective and I honestly wished these two greats would’ve worked together more over the years.

The plots with all the kids felt forced and got tiresome. Although, I did like them all. This part of the story was just a mess.

Two highlights for me, though, were Wesley Snipes and Tracy Morgan.

Snipes was just perfect in this and I love seeing the guy really ham it up, playing over the top characters. Every time the man came onscreen, it was hard not to pay attention. He owned this role and honestly, he steals every scene he’s in.

Tracy Morgan was simply Tracy Morgan from start-to-finish but that’s okay with me. The guy always makes me laugh and you can’t not love him.

I do, however, wish that Shari Headley had a few more scenes. I love her in the original and she has some of the best material in the script to work with, here, but she is Akeem’s Queen and I feel like she deserved to be more front and center than she was. Also, she’s still damn beautiful.

While the world didn’t really need this movie, it did at least make me smile and laugh a bit in a time where life’s been hard for most people. And, if anything, it reminded me that we need comedy, we need to laugh and we have to stop taking everything so damn seriously.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and Trading Places.

Film Review: Trading Places (1983)

Also known as: Black or White (working title)
Release Date: June 7th, 1983 (limited)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Jamie Lee Curtis, Denholm Elliot, Paul Gleason, Kristin Holby, Bo Diddley, Jim Belushi, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Frank Oz, Giancarlo Esposito

Cinema Group Ventures, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me, and it was all because of this terrible, awful negro!” – Louis Winthorpe III

Since I watched The Blues Brothers a week ago, I wanted to revisit this movie, as well. I’ve been on a John Landis comedy kick, as of late.

Like The Blues Brothers, this was one of my favorite comedies, as a kid, because it featured two comedic actors I loved and still do.

While these aren’t my favorite roles for either Dan Aykroyd or Eddie Murphy, they’re still iconic and the guys had tremendous chemistry. So much so, I had always whished for a sequel to this. I kind of hoped it would happen after this film’s villains had cameos in Coming to America, which saw them potentially get their lives back.

Speaking of the villains, played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, they were superb and charismatic for being total pieces of shit. They contributed just as much to the greatness of this picture as the two leads.

However, I also have to give a lot of credit to Denholm Elliot and Jamie Lee Curtis. The two of them rounded out the group of protagonists and formed a solid team alongside Aykroyd and Murphy, as they fought to take down the two rich bastards that were going to completely destroy them.

The story sees a commodities broker have his life ruined by his two bosses over a one dollar bet. That bet sees someone from the furthest end of the social hierarchy take his place to see if he can overcome his environment and succeed at the level that a man born into privilege could.

Essentially, Aykroyd and Murphy play switcheroo but neither are aware of why. Once they find out, they decide to work together to teach the villains a hard lesson. In the end, they outwit them at their own game and walk away with their fortune, leaving them broke.

The film does a pretty amusing job of analyzing “nature versus nurture”. While it’s not a wholly original idea and has similarities to the classic The Prince and the Pauper story, it at least makes the switching of lives involuntary and with that, creates some solid comedic moments.

Even though this isn’t specifically a Christmas movie, it takes place over the holiday, as well as New Year’s, and it’s a film I like to watch around that time of year.

Trading Places has held up really well and it feels kind of timeless even though it is very ’80s. It’s story transcends that, though, and the leads really took this thing to an iconic level, making it one of the best comedies of its time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as other films with Dan Aykroyd or Eddie Murphy.

Film Review: Coming to America (1988)

Also known as: The Quest (working title)
Release Date: June 26th, 1988 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein, Eddie Murphy
Music by: Nile Rodgers
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Eriq La Salle, Frankie Faison, Vanessa Bell, Louie Anderson, Allison Dean, Sheila Jackson, Jake Steinfeld, Calvin Lockhart, Samuel L. Jackson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Cuba Gooding Jr., Don Ameche (cameo), Ralph Bellamy (cameo)

Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“Do not alert him to my presence. I shall deal with him myself.” – King Jaffe Joffer

I’ve reviewed a lot of films lately that I know inside and out but hadn’t seen in their entirety in well over a decade. This is one of those films and after rewatching it, I realized how much I missed the good feelings that this generates, as well as how infectious Prince Akeem’s optimism is. This is really something that I hope is not lost in the sequel, which comes out in a few months.

At it’s core, this is a modern fairytale romance. While it doesn’t feature magic and mythic creatures, it does feature a great quest that sees its protagonist travel to a strange, foreign land in an effort to find treasure.

This treasure is his true love and in seeking her out, he defies his father, the King of Zamunda, as well as centuries of tradition. But in the end, love conquers all and this film conveys that message so splendidly that I feel like it’s impossible not to adore this motion picture.

Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this classic but his performance is maximized by Arsenio Hall, his real life best friend and a guy that plays off of him so perfectly well that it feels like they’ve been a comedy team for years when this is actually, their first movie together.

Beyond the two leads, this film is perfectly cast from top-to-bottom. It’s frankly an all-star cast that features a lot of the top black talent of the time, as well as Louie Anderson in what’s still his most memorable role.

I love the scenes with Murphy and John Amos, as well as the ones with his storyline father, James Earl Jones. Murphy holds his own alongside these legends and this is the one film where he really proves that he is the prime time talent that most assumed he was.

Also, this is the first picture where Murphy, as well as Hall, play multiple characters. This worked so well that it would go on to be a trope in several Eddie Murphy movies in the ’90s and beyond. I can only assume that many of these extra characters will also make their returns in the upcoming sequel. I hope we see the old guys from the barber shop again, even though it’d be shocking if they were still alive 33 years later.

The most important thing that needed to work in this film was the relationship that develops between Akeem and Lisa. It’s a great, simple love story and the two had dynamite chemistry and the emotion of their best scenes shined through, making this a much better picture than it really needed to be.

One thing that really jumps out, that I didn’t notice or appreciate until now, is the music. Nile Rodgers orchestrated an incredible score full of memorable pieces that make certain scenes and sequences, magical. In fact, his King Jaffe Joffer theme is so damn good it’s iconic in my book.

All in all, this is a film where everything went right and I feel as if it exceeded the expectations that even its producers had. John Landis was truly a master of ’80s comedy and this is one great example of how good of a comedic director he was.

As much as I have always loved this movie, I don’t think that I ever had the appreciation that I have for it now. It’s a pretty close to perfect romantic comedy, which is a genre I’m not a massive fan of. But when you make one so great, the genre doesn’t matter and the end result is something that far exceeds the label of “chick flick”.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as Eddie Murphy’s ’80s and early ’90s films.