Coming 2 America packs in the nostalgia, but is it worth watching?

Coming 2 America -- Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Coming 2 America -- Courtesy of Amazon Studios /

The climate felt right for a Coming to America sequel. In today’s movie era, nostalgia is selling. After the success of Black Panther, the idea of a loaded cast living lavishly in a fictional African nation was likely an easy sell.

Plus, after the success of Dolemite is my Name, it appeared that Eddie Murphy was ready to be in the spotlight again. So when Coming 2 America was announced, the excitement was high.

Now that Coming 2 America has arrived, you may be wondering if the sequel is worth your time. Reviewers have not been kind. At the time of this writing, both the critic and audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are in the high 40’s.

A fresh rating is 60% or higher, so a 48% is a pretty bad rating. I always say that I won’t listen to critics’ reviews when it comes to deciding if a comedy is worth my time, but the audience rating is the reason for concern. I’m here to help you decide if it’s worth your time to hit play.

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Why are the ratings so bad?

Expectations tend to weigh heavily in how a person reacts to a movie and here, I believe that expectations were too high.

To revisit a premise from over 30 years ago, one would assume that those behind the project came up with a great way to spin it or update it, but that is not what was delivered. In fact, Coming 2 America revisits a lot of the same ideas as the first film and hits a lot of the same beats.

In Coming 2 America, Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem and his wife Lisa (again played by Shari Headley) have three daughters. Wesley Snipes plays the son of the General from Nexdoria (the fictional country where Prince Akeem’s “Queen to Be” was from) and he is now the general.

With Prince Akeem having no male heir, and King Jaffe Joffer in poor health, the throne of Zamunda is in danger. General Izzi offers his son to Prince Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka, played by Kiki Layne (The Old Guard), but she is not interested in the boy. That’s where things start to go off the rails.

Coming 2 America tells the same story as the original with a minor twist

The story of Akeem and Semmi’s trip to America is rewritten to add that Semmi and Akeem did hook up with two women the night they had the speed dating session at the bar.

One of those women being Leslie Jones’ (Saturday Night Live) character Mary Junson. Akeem didn’t remember the encounter because she got him high but that night, she got pregnant with his son. Akeem does have a male heir and he leaves to go back to America to retrieve him.

When Prince Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler, Sorry to Bother You) arrives and settles in he begins a journey similar to Akeem’s from the first movie and this is likely what loses most viewers. It was a disappointment to me because there was a better story right in front of them where Meeka has a more prominent role.

*Light spoiler here if you want to skip ahead*

In essence, Coming 2 America is a movie that again focuses on the problems with old traditions. This time the issue is the tradition of needing a male heir and Zamunda needing a male to rule.

This should have been the sole focus but by throwing in the arc surrounding Lavelle, we get the same story of a man being forced to marry a woman he doesn’t love and rebelling. The movie wants to make a point about not sidelining women while sidelining women.

What does the movie do correctly?

It wasn’t all bad though. Coming 2 America leans heavily into nostalgia, bringing out almost every living character who had a speaking role in the first movie.

I don’t want to spoil them but you will be surprised at the lengths the movie goes for some of the cameos. Even the opening sequence is almost identical to the opening sequence from the original film. Check out the trailer for a taste.

The nostalgic moments alone are enough to make the film enjoyable for some. If you hadn’t already gone through the cast list you’ll spend a lot of time wondering who is going to pop up next. I’ll admit that this was where I focused a lot of my energy. It was great to see the faces of actors and actresses that haven’t been in much since the film released. It is amazing that Murphy was able to pull it off.

The second thing that I have to point out was the great music. There were way too many individual artists to mention but you get music and performances from Teyana Taylor, Gladys Knight, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue. Oha (Paul Bates), who sung “Queen to Be” in the first film gets his redemption in a song during Coming 2 America, and even John Legend makes an appearance in the end credits.

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The music and cameo’s alone help make the movie worth the watch and if you appreciate anything else then it won’t be a waste of your time. I personally thought it was a fun movie but I also had very low expectations for the quality of the story. Go in to have fun and laugh, and you’ll walk away pleased with what you watched.

Coming 2 America is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.