Streaming Review

Coming 2 America review – disappointingly stale and laugh-free sequel

Craig Brewer's belated follow-up to the beloved 1988 original is dull, over-plotted and - worst of all - wastes Eddie Murphy

Comedy sequels, particularly those as belated as Coming 2 America, are always a gamble. For every Bogus Journey or 22 Jump Street there are countless lazy rehashes, from Dumb and Dumber To and Evan Almighty, to truly legendary failures like Son of the Mask. Sadly, it’s into this latter camp that Coming 2 America falls, landing 33 years after the original and failing to live up to it in almost every respect.

1988’s Coming to America was a fish-out-of-water story, and the sequel makes no attempt to change that formula, though this time out it centres on an American out of place in the fictional African country of Zamunda, rather than the original’s outsider view of New York. Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is about to inherit the throne of Zamunda from his father King Jaffe (James Earl Jones), but with no male heir of his own, Akeem’s position as king looks weak, inviting invasion from the neighbouring country of Nextdoria.

As it transpires, Akeem has an illegitimate son from his time in Queens, the well-meaning but down-on-his-luck Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), so Akeem and loyal royal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) bring Lavelle back to the Zamundan court. As may be apparent, the opening act of Coming 2 America is incredibly busy, the endless exposition coming at the expense of laughs and turning the story into a slog before it’s really even begun.

As Lavelle is schooled in the ways of Zamundan royalty, Coming 2 America lightens up considerably, though it remains completely predictable throughout. Trials are passed, cultural customs exchanged, and Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (Kiki Layne) slowly but surely warms to her new American brother after a disastrous first impression.

The biggest surprise that Coming 2 America holds is how little it actually gives Murphy to do. He was at the peak of his movie-star magnetism in the original, but here he’s flat and reined-in, an agent of the plot more than a real character. It feels especially egregious when compared to director Craig Brewer’s last movie, Dolemite is My Name, which gave Murphy one of his best role in years.

All the best gags go the supporting players. Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan are great as Lavelle’s mother Mary and uncle Reem, while Wesley Snipes steals the entire film as Nextdoria’s hilarious leader General Izzi. He’s clearly having an absolute blast in the role, part Idi Amin, part Christopher Lee’s Dracula, though you end up wishing he – and his brilliantly silly army – had a lot more screen time.

Rather than being particularly offensive or cringeworthy, Coming 2 America is mostly just boring, featuring long stretches without a single joke – even the training montages are played with a straight face. The original Coming to America, with its absurdly charismatic cast and focus on a wealthy and self-sufficient African nation, was a real breath of fresh air. This sequel is stale.

Coming 2 America is now streaming on Prime Video.

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