Before Wakanda and Black Panther, we had Akeem, Semmi and Zamunda. A film that has become a cult classic for many Black people around the globe and shot at the height of former SNL star Eddie Murphy’s fame rollercoaster. It’s full of iconic moments, star cameos and that Black fairytale we sorely miss in pop culture for Black and Brown people.
30 years later, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) discovers he has a long-lost son Lavell Junson (Jermaine Fowler) in America and must return to meet this unexpected heir, while trying to build a relationship. What happens when they return to Africa? We get to revisit Prince Akeem and Lisa. Has Lisa slipped into becoming royalty with ease? What happened with her father and McDowell’s? Do they have children? What about the dudes in the Queens Barbershop and Randy Watson? They all come back and mean is it a fun nostalgic ride to take.
What I most appreciate about this sequel (directed by “Dolemite is My Name” Craig Brewer) is the women of Zamunda are self sufficient, strong-willed, strong-minded and not reliant upon the approval of a man to be their own person. We witness Lavell (Jermaine Fowler) falling in love with his future Queen (Nomzamo Mbatha) for her mind, sense of humor and individuality in the exact same manner Akeem fell for Lisa (Shari Headley).
Hall and Murphy slip back into their many characters like a glove providing new laughable classical moments along the way. The Junson family comprised of Leslie Jones (Mary Junson), Tracy Morgan (Uncle Reem) and Luenell (Livia) provide their own specials blend of comedy likened to a Black version of the Beverly Hillbillies if they lived in Queens to an overprotective Dad (Wesley Snipes) thirsty for power and prestige to the trio of royal daughters (Bella Murphy, Akiley Love and Kiki Layne) who were giving me African “Lara Croft, the stunning designs of Academy Award winning Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter and the signature dance numbers this franchise have become known for make going back to Zamunda memorable and enjoyable.
The screenplay doesn’t pack a knockout like the original, but Coming 2 America has moments like Akeem’s reaction to Lisa (Shari Headley) revealing he’s not the first person she’s been with. It’s that acerbic, unapologetic honesty that will remind audiences why we originally fell in love with them in the first place. 30 years later, their chemistry is still palpable and relevant for a whole new generation. It is also noted this is the first time that we see James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman on screen together (a fact Murphy shared with me during our interview).
Coming to America caught lightening in a bottle some 36 years ago and while that may be difficult to replicate on many levels, I don’t know anyone who would mind taking a trip back to Zamunda one more time to get their giggle on with the brothers in the Barbershop or watch Akeem impart life lessons in the same manner King Jeffrey Joffer (James Earl Jones) did leading him to a life of marital bliss with his “Queen-To-Be”– Lisa.
There are some surmise star cameos and a heels funny nod to the original at the end of the credits, so make sure you start tuned and enjoy all that this sequel has to offer as it begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on March 5th.