With King Joffer (James Earl Jones) on his deathbed, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is set to become King of Zamunda. But given the country’s tradition of male heirs taking the throne, a neighboring country is planning for war to take over, seeing as how Prince Akeem has three daughters and no sons. Akeem resists the proposition of marrying his eldest daughter to the son of General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), who also happens to be the brother of Akeem’s once-intended bride. Just before his death, King Joffer and Semmi (Arsenio Hall) reveal to Akeem that he has an illegitimate son in Queens, thanks to a one-night stand Akeem can’t remember. And so, to protect Zamunda’s future, Akeem and Semmi travel back to New York to find Akeem’s son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler).
I really enjoyed Coming to America and of course, I was excited to see what Eddie Murphy would do with the sequel. While I didn’t love it, it wasn’t a massive disappointment either. It was enjoyable to see familiar characters again and I quite liked the introduction of several new characters, including Jermaine Fowler as Akeem’s son and Leslie Jones as his mother. The majority of the film takes place in Zamunda this time with Queens being but a blip on the movie’s radar – Akeem and Semmi are there just long enough to fit in a few gags with the barbers and Reverend Brown – and the story really centers on Lavelle and his journey to becoming worthy of being King. Of course, Akeem’s daughter Meeka (Kiki Layne), is not terribly welcoming of Lavelle, and you can’t blame her, considering she has devoted her life to Zamunda and should be in line for the throne if not for Zamunda’s outdated traditions and customs.
The story itself isn’t terrible, since it pushes a lot of progressive themes, but part of what made Coming to America so great was the interactions and friendship between Akeem and Semmi as they try to adapt to America. Coming 2 America is definitely missing that charm although Murphy and Hall still have great chemistry. Akeem is much older now, so it makes sense that he’s wiser as well, but his gentle naivete is what made Akeem so likable and funny. There is also a distinct lack of Semmi, I am sad to say. One could even say a sequel shouldn’t simply rehash the first film, but Coming 2 America still attempts to do this anyway, with old gags and characters showing up without any reasonable explanation other than fan service, like the appearance of Sexual Chocolate and singer Randy Watson.
Coming 2 America might have succeeded more if it didn’t rely so much on the past. A little bit of nostalgia is fine, welcomed even, but I think in this instance, it held the movie back. You’re either focused on telling a new story, or you’re not, and I couldn’t really figure out what Coming 2 America wanted to be. I know it’s a comedy so there’s no real sense in digging too deeply into it, but I do think it had a lot of potential to be just as good as Coming to America. Unfortunately, it felt like a pale remake that’s definitely lacking the charm and wit of its predecessor.