About halfway through “Coming 2 America,” there’s an exchange between two characters where they lament Hollywood’s insistence on dragging decades-old franchises through the wringer with unnecessary — and unwanted — sequels.
It’s a knowing nod, a self-aware tip of the hat, to the 33-year gap between the seminal original movie (which saw Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play a pair of wealthy Africans travel to the roughest part of New York to find love).
This Amazon Prime sequel which sees Murphy and Hall reprise their roles — all of them — as part of a star-studded ensemble cast.
Unfortunately, the joke lands a little too close to home. Because while there are some decent gags, and a couple of amusing set pieces, “Coming 2 America” feels like a film that nobody really needed, or wanted, to be made.
Ostensibly, the movie sees Prince Akeem Joffer celebrating 30 years of marriage to Lisa McDowell, the woman with whom he fell in love in the 1988 original.
When he discovers he has a hitherto unmentioned son living in New York, Akeem and loyal aide Semmi (Hall) must revisit the USA to bring his heir back to the kingdom of Zamunda, and fend off the sinister attempts of militaristic nation Nextdoria (governed by Wesley Snipes’ General Izzi) to encroach on the success of the Joffer dynasty.
“Coming 2 America” seems so unsure of what kind of film it wants to be that it winds up being neither.
In part, it’s a simple retread of the original — even down to some of the plot points, gags and rubber-faced supporting characters that Murphy and Hall wheel out — while in others it seeks to pass itself off as a self-aware update to some of the more-dated jokes made at the expense of developing African nations in 1988.
The result is riddled with ill-fitting stereotypes and heavy-handed attempts to redress the patriarchal undertones of the fictional Zamunda.
The original was, at times, a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy that owed much to Murphy’s comedic gravitas. “Coming 2 America” lacks even the limited charm of its predecessor, and leans too heavily on jokes that haven’t aged as well as its star.
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