‘Coming 2 America’ honors the original and elevates the story in the best way

Ah, who could possibly forget the tale of Prince Akeem and the Land of Queens?

By Dominique Hodge

“Coming 2 America” is a direct sequel to “Coming to America” and had great shoes to fill, being a continuation of the beloved film. Where many sequels fall short in faithfulness to the original and being well received by audiences, “Coming 2 America” prevails and emanates Zamundan greatness.

The classic being brought back and reformed for new audiences in “Coming 2 America” created both excitement and hesitance in me. I am not alone in my love for the 1988 film and my yearning to see a continuation. However, I was skeptical because of the possibility that the sequel would be a failure and a dishonor to the original film’s legacy. “Coming 2 America” defied my expectations.

The film is filled with outrageous characters, has a star-studded cast and demonstrates the importance of family, heritage and humbleness. A film like “Coming to America” was revolutionary when it was released for its timelessness and refreshing take on a love story. The emphasis on loyalty, culture and pride has crowned it as one of the most appreciated films of the ‘80s, by the Black community in particular.

The 1988 film was groundbreakingly successful — flipping a $35 million dollar budget to $288 million earned in the box office — and transformed Eddie Murphy’s career. In a time where the star typically played the wise-cracking counterpart, Murphy defied expectation in his lead role as Prince Akeem.

In “Coming to America,” Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) struggles with his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) pushing the tradition of arranged marriage. Prince Akeem wants to marry for love and after a discussion with the king, he is sent off to America to “sow [his] royal oats.” Little does King Joffer know, Akeem is in search of a wife who will love him for more than his title. He flees to America with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to Queens, New York and ultimately finds love in Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley).

“Coming 2 America'' follows Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and the rest of the royal family’s adjustment to Zamunda’s new heir/his long-lost son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler). Akeem and Lisa have three daughters but Zamundan culture maintains the expectation of a male as ruler. With King Jaffe Joffer’s death on the brink and a foretold assassination attempt, Akeem returns to America to find his son. The arrival of Lavelle and his mother (Leslie Jones) to Zamunda throws the whole family off. However, they learn to accept each other and give the rightful heir the throne.

Beloved characters from the original return alongside more celebrities to make this movie all the better. Guest appearances like Trevor Noah, Tracy Morgan, Teyana Taylor and Colin Jost add a comedic and modern flare to the continuation. The film also pays homage to the original with the inclusion of various staples like Akeem’s casual new-yorker outfit and Soul-Glo in the film.

“Coming 2 America” also improves negative aspects of the original that audiences disliked. The 1988 film had a broken family dynamic that jumpstarts the plot and creates conflict throughout. The original starts with visuals of a family on different pages (sitting across long tables, miscommunication and general unhappiness). The broken bond between father and son is an aspect that is a drag when watching the film. Yet, the resolution makes the frustration between Akeem and his parents worth it.

“Coming 2 America” opens with the children of Akeem and Lisa and we see happiness on both sides. The semblance of family and pride is strong even with the descendants of Akeem.There is conflict with the addition of Lavelle and his mother; however, Akeem still is loyal to his 1988 character in his mission to be a good father and do the right thing.

Some critiqued the portrayal of women in the ‘80s film. This is a controversial aspect of the original film that is not brought up much. Yet, this aspect of the film is ingrained in the plot. Women are placed in subservient roles, especially in the palace scenes. The recurring messages of “women are all the same” and other aspects of the film places women in a negative light and enforce toxic messages.

On the other hand, the sequel flips these depictions on its head. Every woman, including Leslie Jones’ character, is depicted as strong and worthy. They each are different in their own ways but hold power and greatness. Lisa is still intelligent and wise. Her fire extends to her daughters.

Meeka, the eldest daughter, is the best example of how the franchise shifts from those inherently toxic messages. Meeka is cunning, dedicated and deserving of being heir of Zamunda. Of course, she is limited because Zamunda is still stuck in its old ways because they prefer a male ruler. Yet, she keeps her grace and will honor her relatives and Zamunda.

The care for the material is astounding and as an appreciator of the original, I was pleased. The sequel was translated perfectly for today while honoring what the original stood for.

As icing on top of the cake for fans of the original and “Trading Places,” (1983) there was a cameo of Duke and Duke with Colin Jost’s character. This further demonstrates the respect and appreciation for Eddie Murphy’s work. Also, this connection excites me for the future. If “Coming to America” returned after all this time, who is to say “Trading Places” might not make a comeback?

Edited by Chloe Konrad | ckonrad@themaneater.com

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