Eddie Murphy is the star of a sequel to one of his most popular movies in "Coming 2 America." Or is he?
The actor returns as Akeem, a prince from the fictional nation of Zamunda. He's the king now, which means increased responsibilities, but everything possible seems to have been done to lighten the workload of the performer who is the reason this sequel happened.
He's only nominally the lead in "2," which focuses at least as much on a recently unearthed son and potential heir. Whereas the 1988 "Coming to America" was a fish-out-of-water tale about an African man learning about life in the United States, this one's a reverse fish-out-of-water in which the son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), visits Africa and must prove his manhood by calming lions and submitting to genital mutilation (these are the jokes, folks, and you should also be ready for vague transphobia).
Fowler is likable enough, but he's not the reason anyone wants to see more "Coming to America." Nor are the extended dance sequences, blatant product placements, a whole lot of Leslie Jones as Lavelle's mom or musical performances by En Vogue (minus a singer), Salt-N-Pepa (minus Spinderella) or Gladys Knight (minus the Pips). Waiting for Murphy to pop up in "Coming 2 America" is not unlike listening to albums from the '60s or '70s with a couple of hits and a lot of filler to pad them out to 10 tracks.
When he surfaces, Murphy plays the hits. All four of his "Coming to America" characters return to help him demonstrate how unique are his gifts. With even better makeup than in the first film, Murphy disappears inside a barbershop owner, a crabby customer and a geriatric singer, even if the latter feels odd right after the 76-year-old Knight has demonstrated she unquestionably still has it.
The flip side is that Murphy is so good that we want more of him and with sharper material, especially since sunny Akeem is basically a straight man. The best lines do not belong to Murphy (I loved a clip from a Zamundan news channel, with James Earl Jones intoning, "This is ZNN") and there are not enough of them.
Although five screenwriters are credited, there's a laziness to the script, which recycles clips from its predecessor and includes dopey jokes like Lavelle decrying "sequels to old movies that nobody asked for." With talents such as Murphy, a surprisingly funny Wesley Snipes, John Amos, Morgan Freeman, KiKi Layne and Minnesota's own Louie Anderson on hand, it's particularly glaring that most of them have little to do.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367
Coming 2 America
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for crude jokes and drugs.
Where: Amazon Prime.