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Review: 'Coming 2 America' forgot to pack the laughs

'Coming to America 2' to premiere on Amazon on March 5
Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 21:33:53-05

The 2020s are the new 1980s. If "Crocodile Dundee," "Bill and Ted," "The Karate Kid" and "Punky Brewster" can all come back, then why not "Coming to America?"

The sequel is 110 minutes of reasons why not.

The major issue is that the franchise is back without having evolved in a meaningful way.

The type of tilted, stereotype-fueled humor just doesn't play the same now as it used to. The sort of mockery of a made-up African culture that once might have seemed innocent -- or at least acceptable -- now triggers more winces than laughs.

The crowning accomplishment of "Coming 2 America" -- which was scheduled to launch on Prime Video March 5, but was released a day early -- is that it makes the 1988 film look even better by comparison. It strains, huffs and groans in a desperate effort to rekindle the magic of the era, but only succeeds in soiling Eddie Murphy's resume with another "Norbit" or "The Adventures of Pluto Nash."

Director Craig Brewer, who worked with Murphy so well in the elegant and thoughtful throwback "Dolemite is My Name" (2019), goes the opposite way here. Rarely has Murphy been so dry and low-energy in a comedy.

Reprising the role of Akeem Joffer, prince of the fake country Zamunda, Murphy sinks into the background for much of the tepid plot. Potential for an intriguing premise arises when Akeem's father, the King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) asks him to go to New York to track down the son he never knew he had.

What might have been another silly fish-out-of-water tale falls to the wayside when Akeem accomplishes the task all too quickly. Much of the rest of the story is set in Zamunda, as Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and his mother, Mary (Leslie Jones) try awkwardly to fit into the Zamundan royal court.

Awkward is the modus operandi in "Coming 2 America." Bit parts by Arsenio Hall, Tracy Jordan and Wesley Snipes fail to materialize into much more than wistful, crammed-in reunions. What emerges is the bizarre feel of a slapped-together family reunion Zoom call. Sure, it's great to have everyone here -- but now what?

There are a few scenes that work on a nostalgic level. Watching Jones reprise his role, however limited, is a treat, and seeing Murphy don his old walking-around-America garb is charming.

As for the rest of the movie, it's a relic that should have been left buried in the past.

RATING: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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