This is a very funny, entertaining, sometimes nostalgic, good spirited movie that brings us back to Zamunda and Queens, the two locations of one of the funniest of American comedies, with the original Coming to America really being a perfect comedy with absolutely no false notes. And like the original, it boasts an immensely talented cast of black artists, and is really a celebration of black talent in every area from comedy, drama, to music, and beyond.
Hoping for the day when people are no longer defined by trivial characteristics, as a so-called white audience member I have always been a great admirer of all aspects of African-American talent, which has only lagged behind recognition of white talent because of simple and ugly prejudice. There are too many extraordinary performances by black artists throughout the years not to join in on the celebration.
People complain about it being too PC or "woke", but why should it not pay attention to the important changes in culture which are all about equality. So much of black film making is about equality for good reason, because African-Americans have suffered from the ravages of inequality, and because equality is the way society will find peace and prosperity. Hatred and prejudice are poisonous to all who contact it, and art should be a force for good at every turn. (Thank you, Spike Lee) But its social awareness is never heavy-handed, and never obscure's the humor of the piece.
So in this vein, one of the great things about the original, as well as with the movie Black Panther, is that it casts black people in the roles of Kings and Queens, and Heads of State, which is the psychological antidote to the roles black people have been forced to play in this society from its inception. And even if the depictions of these kingdoms are apparent fantasies, they actually point back to a reality and a time when there were Black African Kingdoms, advance cultures that were overlooked by European historians.
It's wonderful to see the lifelong friends, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, friends in real life and in Zamunda, depicted here. Arsenio Hall is genuinely funny, subtle, and always kind, which comedy needs more of. Eddie Murphy generously gives the rest of the cast a chance to shine, which makes this entirely different from a vanity project, which he could've made it. He is the master of ceremonies of a talented cast in order to bring Zamunda back to life. And as a performer, he always finds the right note, whether comedically or dramatically. For those who may not have noticed, Eddie is back.
Lisa (Shari Headley), his captivating and funny girlfriend-wife from the original, is happily back, and once she has a few drinks with the hilarious, unbridled Leslie Jones, she is back to her feisty self, and rekindles her relationship with Akeem.
James Earl Jones returns with his inimitable presence for too short a time, but enough time to give his weight to the entire affair. Missing is the wonderful, and beautiful Madge Sinclair who played Queen Aoleon in the original with grace, nobility and a truly queenly presence.
John Amos, who I never thought was given enough credit for why the original is so funny, as the perfect comic foil, both a heavy and a hero, only has a few short scenes, but he has one pivotal scene in the Zamunda McDowell's, where he is still pointing out the inconsequential differences between his burgers and drinks and McDonald's.
Jermaine Fowler, who has a great, light comedic touch, is a perfect choice for Prince Lavelle Johnson, because his goodheartedness, sweetness, and innocence remind us of Akeem. For both of these movies to work we need to like the characters, and we do. And this brings me to the clever device of Akeem unwittingly producing his son under the influence, which he only remembers as being attacked by a wild boar. In this way our memory of Akeem as a good and noble man is preserved.
Akeem's daughters are all well played, as is Prince Lavelle's personal groomer who becomes his wife, and it's a great touch to see the Royal Announcer back, with his beautiful singing voice, to affirm the continuity of Zamunda. And Tracy Morgan is funny as Lavelle's uncle, with his funniest scene being his television interview where he insults and tries to supplant Semi (Arsenio) as spokesman for the kingdom.
And finally it's great to see Wesley Snipes back, who, despite his troubles, remains an actor of prodigious talent and charisma, who manages to invest those qualities into a perfect, and wryly menacing comic villain.
In literature and art there is something called the odious comparison, wherein things of different nature are somehow forced into a comparison which obscures rather than reveals the merits of each work. Coming 2 America was made in a different era, and rightly reflects the new time. The point is that this movie is much better than its detractors say, and if you can see both movies in their own light you will appreciate our return to Zamunda.