My nostalgia goggles were a little too tight
COMING 2 AMERICA (2021)
I think it’s time to settle down and deliver my final thoughts on the long time coming sequel, Coming 2 America. To put it bluntly, it’s a complete disappointment. So bad it’s not worth watching even once? Probably not. So bad it’s only worth watching once and then never again? Absolutely!
Director Craig Brewer decided to take on Coming 2 America hot off the heels of Dolemite is My Name, and at the time of the announcement, it was honestly a promising sign. Of course John Landis being rightfully banished from Hollywood for his illegal filmmaking techniques that led to deaths on set of one of his films, meant that he couldn’t return to the mantle and direct this sequel. So Brewer had to do. The direction shares very few similarities to the original film; it’s all very conventional comedy with infinite amounts of obvious sets and just a pinch of laziness in the filmmaking throughout. When it comes to bad sequels to “classics” that have been sitting dormant for decades, Coming 2 America luckily isn’t at the level of the tortuous Zoolander 2 or the unfavorably received Dumb and Dumber To. It clearly tries sometimes while simultaneously not at other times throughout Coming 2 America's inflated runtime, making the final product undeniably uneven.
The plot sees Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem take over rule of the country of Zamunda after his father’s passing and seeking out a bastard son he had all those years ago when he went to America the first time around. The plot is predictable and plays by the rules, never offering even a second of questioning where the plot may go. The film has a theme of equality and change without providing much change within its own story. The reasoning for seeking out his surprise son in America is because he needs a son to take over the reign of the country once he passes, while his three daughters are present and accounted for - the idea of bringing America over to the country of Zamunda is a decent one at best, and its execution barely shows any effort in being creative. The film is similar in so many ways to the original without providing the charm it originally generated. It heavily relies on nostalgia to get you from point A to B.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
A vast majority of the original cast is back here with Eddie Murphy taking the obvious spotlight and Arsenio Hall taking a backseat. They even managed to bring back James Earl Jones and John Amos in their respective roles, both providing some much needed chuckles in their minimal time on screen. The old characters aren’t the issue where Coming 2 America is concerned, it’s the introduction of new characters that causes the nostalgia goggles to slip right off. Leslie Jones, Jemaine Fowler, and Tracy Morgan are three of the newcomers that unfortunately take too much of the screen time away from our stars, bring about unnecessary humor, and bring about problematic plot points that should never have passed the first draft. However that’s not to say that all new additions to the cast were entirely unwelcome, because that’s not the case here with Wesley Snipes playing the ruler of Nextdooria - it’s a welcome comeback for the action star. You can tell there’s certainly some improv thrown in and the improv moments work on most accounts, mainly when made by Murphy, Hall, Snipes, or Jones interacting with one another. You can tell the script had been reworked and reworked to the point where it’s rushed character development and loaded roster of lacking characters are irritating to watch develop. I wouldn’t say the acting is bad by anyone in the film, however the script doesn’t help anyone, leaning on being called a mediocre or bad actor… no one could help this script. But the inclusion of the barbershop characters was a nice touch - they’ve still got it!
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Visually it looked like Zamunda for the brief time we’re around it in the original film. For the most part we are locked away in the palace with only a few glimpses of the surrounding world, and even when we go back to America we’re trapped within a single street location, which contains the barbershop. It’s minimalistic in terms of the brief scenes we saw in the first Coming to America, which is meant to help focus on the characters and less on their surroundings. However, there’s just not the same novelty of the aesthetic that the first provided.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Coming 2 America is composer Jermaine Stegall’s biggest film he’s made an entire composition for, and you can tell. There’s a lot of awkward moments with the score and a lot of attempts to replicate the original’s tone while doing his own spin, and it wound up being unremarkable. The choice of lyrical music throughout the film (ex. Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight), a majority of which are cameos, serves no purpose to the emotional integrity of the story. This is most noticeable when Coming 2 America is trying to make a joke with the music itself; a prime example being the King’s funeral, where the filmmakers loaded up the scene with cameo after cameo to perform to the dying King just to simply have more names involved with the film.
At one point in the film there’s a “meta” discussion about “sequels to movies that nobody asked for,” which is rich, considering the joke is meant to say that this film is one of the films no one asked for and wound up succeeding in making a worthwhile sequel to a beloved classic - which is hardly the case. To clarify, I didn’t hate the first time I watched Coming 2 America, and in fact I chuckled quite a bit (almost as much as I groaned), but when I went back afterwards to rewatch, it became clear that my nostalgia goggles were a little too tight.