‘Coming 2 America’ Is A Worthy Follow Up To The Iconic Classic – Review
The highly anticipated sequel to comedy classic Coming to America is finally here. Taking place 30 years after the original film, Coming 2 America, reunites us with Akeem and Lisa as they celebrate 30 years of marriage. Prince Akeem is now King of Zamunda with his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) still by his side. As Akeem lives a fairly good life as King, with a loving wife, and large family, things change when he discovers he has a son.
Akeem and Lisa have three daughters, the oldest Meeka is played by rising-star Kiki Layne. Meeka is the logical choice to be heir to the thrown, but once again outdated rules stand her way. This time the rules state that a male can only be the heir to the crown. Enter Lavelle played by Jermaine Fowler. This time Akeem pushed by convention, he and Semmi set out to find Lavelle, heading back to where all of this began, Queens.
The original film debuted in 1988, it is amongst the great Eddie Murphy films and has had a lasting impact on pop culture for decades. So, the film doesn’t waste much time reacclimating the audience. If you haven’t seen the original, it is available to you on Amazon Prime Video. As soon as you are done watching that you will find the sequel ready for you to watch right away.
This film really hits hard on the nostalgia and is a friendly reminder that Black Don’t Crack. Joking aside, the original ensemble is all memorable and beloved, and it’s good to see that each one is thriving in their own ways. Of course, the highlight of the sequel is seeing Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprise their roles 30 years later. Seeing these two back on screen together having fun and bouncing off of one another will put a massive smile on your face. You could tell they were having a lot of fun being back in these roles, as well as a few other roles within the film.
As the newly-crowned King of Zamunda, Akeem has followed the footsteps of his father and the becoming more accustomed to the traditions of the nation. In a way, he doesn’t follow adhere to his anti-tradition perspective that was the basis of the first film. So the sequel juxtaposes his adherence to tradition with Lavelle’s “Coming to Zamunda” story and Meeka’s resistance to the traditions her father once opposed himself. It’s a layered narrative that doesn’t entirely upend what worked in the first film.
As Lavelle is the central focus of the narrative, Fowler’s comedic abilities, as well as his acting skills, are needed to help Lavelle connect with all the characters in one or another. He is also an integral part of the plot to flow really well. In addition, Fowler has great chemistry with Murphy, at times he really does seem like Murphy’s son. With the role-reversal, Lavelle is no the fish out of water in Zamunda and is living out the same responsibilities Akeem was under in the first film. While Lavelle learns of his heritage and the ways of Zamunda, Akeem is slowly reminded of why he fell in love with Queens and why he fell in love with Lisa.
Kiki Layne as Meeka is a highlight of the film. She is hilarious and engaging and is given a chance to show off her acting skills. You can see her in hero mode in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Old Guard on Netflix. Layne has been making choices that show off her range as an actress and Meeka is an all-encompassing role. Meeka has her own character-arc which involves getting to know Lavelle. Meeka and Lavelle have a rough start but learn a valuable lesson, which is not letting their parents’ lives dictate their relationship. A universal theme.
However, Meeka is not the only woman to make a splash in the film. Making her big-screen debut, Nomzamo Mbatha plays Mirembe. She is Lavelle’s love interest and has the same energy and charisma as Lisa from the first film. Mbatha and Fowler recapture that magic that Akeem and Lisa had all those years ago. Mbatha is certainly a star on the rise.
It is great to also see Shari Healey return as Lisa. Her chemistry with Murphy is as strong as ever. She also has excellent chemistry with Leslie Jones’s character Marry, Lavelle’s mom. With Mary bringing a bit of Queens with her to Zamunda, Lisa also undergoes her own rediscovery. Since she has been away from Queens for so long, Mary reminds her that you can take the girl out of Queens but you can’t take the Queens of the girl. Unlike other sequels and reboots of classic franchises, this movie does a great job of treating the women with respect as they all feel like fully realized characters. The female empowerment is woven throughout the film feels organic and not forced at all.
One of the strongest messages of the film is the importance of family. In the original, we got to see how the McDowell family affected Akeem and how his overall experience Queen helped heal Akeem’s fractured relationship with his father King Jaffe (James Earl Jones). To help with this you need a stellar ensemble. This time the family dynamics shift and evolve with the inclusion of Lavelle’s mom, Mary and uncle Reem (Tracey Morgan). Another new addition, General Izzo (Wesley Snipes) as adds to the hilarity and Snipes looks like he is having an incredible time. Jones and Morgan are great additions to the cast and the duo have their own hilarious dynamic in Zamundau. John Amos and Jones both return add more to the nostalgia of the film.
Sequels can always be risky especially when they’re for films that have reached such an iconic status like Coming to America, but I’ve got to say I really enjoyed Coming 2 America and it is definitely a worthy follow-up. This film has something for everybody and I’m excited a new generation will get to experience so many legendary actors together in one film.