In times like these, it’s nice to be able to laugh. And the long-awaited, arguably unnecessary sequel to 1988’s Coming to America has plenty of moments worth chuckling over. Some even generate a hearty belly burst. But these instances are parts of a whole that doesn’t quite add up in the end. Despite its ephemeral flashes of amusement, Coming 2 America is a hot mess that’s constantly trying to find its place, much like the wide-grinned Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) tried to do when he visited America all those years ago.

In this follow-up, Prince Akeem becomes king after his father’s passing–James Earl Jones returns very briefly to die onscreen in an admittedly humorous sequence. The new king becomes worried about the traditions of Zamunda, which dictate that a male heir must take the throne after him. Only problem is that Akeem has had three daughters with his beloved Lisa (Shari Headley), and the military leader (Wesley Snipes) of the next door country (aptly named Nexdoria) is pressuring action if Akeem does not pursue an arranged marriage to bring their countries together. The eventual twist that sends Akeem back to America involves extremely questionable logistics, in which he discovers he has an adult son after a sexual encounter during his initial visit to America, a tryst he doesn’t remember because he was drugged.

We don’t spend too much time in America, despite the film’s title and the rich potential that an extended stay in present-day United States would bring to the movie. In fact, it’s just a quick visit that finds Akeem and his trusted friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) retrieving his long-lost son rather easily. We get a brief interaction with the old barber shop group from the first film, who pop in to say a few ill-fitting jokes about Nazis and #MeToo, but within less than 10 minutes we’re back in Zamunda with new characters in tow. This includes Akeem’s son, Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler), as well as the woman who rode him in a pot-smoke stupor back in the day, Mary Junson (Leslie Jones).

From here, the story shifts into Lavelle’s narrative mostly as he trains to be the new prince. There are subplots galore, none of which quite fall into place the way they should. Eventually everything feels so rushed that the movie wraps without much sense of closure. The biggest problem with Coming 2 America is its wasted potential. With its PG-13 rating and lack of bite in critiquing the 21st century American experience, it consistently falls flat and takes easy side streets when it should be gunning the engine.

That isn’t to say it isn’t without its merits. Supporting players like Jones and Tracy Morgan contribute to a lot of funny moments, as does Wesley Snipes, but the main characters are indubitably lacking the most. Director Craig Brewer blends images and music with the aptitude he’s shown in previous works like Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan and Footloose, giving many scenes the catchiness and appeal of a song on the radio you can’t get out of your head. Adding to the visual advantages are costumes by the legendary Ruth E. Carter’s, which honestly are Oscar-worthy. But all and all, the film is too little too late—a sequel that nobody really asked for and that doesn’t deliver on its unexpected arrival.

A sequel that nobody really asked for and that doesn't deliver on its unexpected arrival.
57 %
2 Little 2 Late
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