Entertainment

Coming 2 America is SLAMMED by critics as a ‘tired’ rehash of original

Coming 2 America, the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s 1988 classic Coming To America, was released on Thursday on Amazon Prime Video.

And critics have shared their thoughts on the sequel, which sees Murphy return as Prince Akeem, and have slammed the film for being a ‘tired’ rehash of its beloved original, with some criticising its sexist and ‘old-fashioned’ jokes.

The film finds Prince Akeem and wife Lisa, who he famously met in Queens in the original movie, reigning in Zamunda with three daughters.

‘This is lazy, barrel-scraping cinema’: Coming 2 America has been SLAMMED by critics as a ‘tired’ rehash of its beloved original following its release on Amazon Prime Video on Thursday

Faced with the reality that none of his children can ascend the throne, Akeem learns he has a son back in America, the product of a one-night stand with a woman named Mary (Leslie Jones).

Directed by Craig Brewer and written by Barry Sheffield and David W. Blaustein, the film sees Akeem travel back to America with his trusted friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find the boy, Lavelle, (Jermaine Fowler), who is working as a scalper for his uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan).

The Daily Mail’s Brian Viner gave the film two stars, claiming it is rarely as funny as the original despite its returning cast, and called it a ‘hit-and-miss sequel’.

Plot: The film finds Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) having to return to Queens with his trusted friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his long lost son, who is heir to the throne in Zamunda

Plot: The film finds Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) having to return to Queens with his trusted friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his long lost son, who is heir to the throne in Zamunda

He wrote: ‘The original film was billed as ‘laugh-a-minute’, and the ratio this time is more like a laugh every quarter of an hour. 

‘Murphy is still an engaging performer, especially in his two New York barbershop guises. But either standards have plummeted since 1988, or we used to be much easier to please.’

Meanwhile, The Times‘ Kevin Maher did not mince words when giving his thoughts in his one star review, as he called the film an ‘atrocity’ that is ‘lazy, barrel-scraping cinema’.

Thoughts: The Daily Mail's Brian Viner gave the film two stars, claiming it is rarely as funny as the original despite its returning cast, and called it a 'hit-and-miss sequel'

Thoughts: The Daily Mail’s Brian Viner gave the film two stars, claiming it is rarely as funny as the original despite its returning cast, and called it a ‘hit-and-miss sequel’

In his review, he hit out: ‘The film is a horrible mishmash, reboot atrocity, part narrative continuation, part retread, that proudly declares itself, midway through, as “a sequel to an old movie that nobody asked for”.’

Criticising the film’s ‘old-fashioned’ sense of humour, he goes on: ‘When Saul, for instance, is asked about the change of cultural attitudes since the 1980s he barks, “They can turn your penis into a vagina now.” And that’s as good as it gets. 

‘There’s a belaboured circumcision gag, a tedious oral sex gag and a date rape gag, and then the 1990s R&B act En Vogue do a dance number during a pointless musical interlude. It’s lazy, barrel-scraping cinema at its worst.’

Beware Murphy’s Law: BRIAN VINER reviews comedy sequel Coming 2 America 

At what point does an overdue sequel become an ill-starred sequel? It doesn’t seem to be simply a matter of years.

More than half a century after the original, Mary Poppins Returns (2018) yielded box-office numbers to please everyone at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and beyond. But after a mere 35-year gap, and despite being pretty darned good, Blade Runner 2049 stumbled.

The success of long-delayed sequels is not always determined by quality, nor by appetite. I don’t recall a clamour for a new Mary Poppins and it was a film I didn’t greatly care for, but it still worked £250 million worth of magic.

Which brings me to Coming 2 America. We haven’t exactly been shrieking for it, but should we be glad it’s here? Yes and no, but mainly no, despite a cast list that makes you smile just to look at it, with Morgan Freeman and Gladys Knight playing themselves. 

Making sequels to 1980s comedies, without wanting to give Tom Cruise any ideas, is a risky business. Times have changed and director Craig Brewer, along with stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, plainly needed no reminding that sensibilities are very different now from those that greeted Coming To America in 1988. 

Feminism is duly a big part of the new film’s strained exuberance. We could call it Coming MeToo America.

Murphy and Hall take the same multiple roles as in the first film, led by the former’s Crown Prince Akeem, who becomes monarch of the remote African country of Zamunda when his father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, reprising his original role at the grand old age of 90) finally kicks the royal bucket.

So who will take over as heir to the throne? Akeem and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley), formerly plain Lisa McDowell from Queens, have only daughters, and ancient Zamundan laws of primogeniture kick in when Akeem discovers to his amazement that he has an illegitimate son back in New York, conceived all those years ago during a drug-induced tryst of which he has no memory.

To stop rascally General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) from neighbouring Nextdoria muscling in on the Zamundan throne by marrying his own boy to one of the royal daughters, King Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Hall) head back to America, find his grown-up son Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and whisk him and his raucously uncouth mother Mary (Leslie Jones) to Zamunda. 

What then unfolds is a flip, more or less, of the 1988 plot, with a streetwise New Yorker this time pratfalling through the mysteries of Zamundan society. But the comedy never worked as well that way round in the fish-out-of-water Crocodile Dundee films, and so it is here. Call it Murphy’s Law.

There are a few riotous sequences, one of which arrives promisingly early in the form of the old king’s lavish funeral, which he insists should take place while he is still alive to enjoy it. Gladys Knight performs, which is a hoot.

However, the original film was billed as ‘laugh-a-minute’, and the ratio this time is more like a laugh every quarter of an hour. Murphy is still an engaging performer, especially in his two New York barbershop guises.

But either standards have plummeted since 1988, or we used to be much easier to please. Either way, Coming 2 America needs more than a fix of crowd-pleasing feminism, whereby Zamunda’s law of succession eventually changes in favour of Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne), to make it a 2021 hit.

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw’s thoughts on the film were not much more positive, as he called it ‘tired’ in his two star review.

He claimed: ‘The movie is as tired and middle-aged as Akeem himself; Murphy is oddly waxy and stately, and has no authority figures he can really play off.’

Peter went on: ‘The first film comically positioned Africa as “old-fashioned” and America as “modern” – so the sequel has no clear way to update matters and establish a modern perspective. 

‘There is no way to say things have changed, because it’s basically stuck with the same old-fashioned/modern template: Lavelle is slovenly and disrespectful but also has a modernity and vitality that Zamunda supposedly needs – although its quaint old-fashionedness is what supposedly makes it funny, and there is no explicit talk of changing that sexist constitution.’

Critcism: Meanwhile, The Times ' Kevin Maher did not mince words when giving his thoughts in his one star review, as he called the film an 'atrocity' that is 'lazy, barrel-scraping cinema'

Critcism: Meanwhile, The Times ‘ Kevin Maher did not mince words when giving his thoughts in his one star review, as he called the film an ‘atrocity’ that is ‘lazy, barrel-scraping cinema’

Cinemablend‘s Sean O’Connell found the film’s nostalgia not enough to sustain interest, criticising it for using the same old jokes in his two star review. 

O’Connell said: ‘Time has not been kind, and this tepid attempt to rekindle our interest in the series limps along on a rotating cycle of “Remember this?” gags and too-serious subplots involving Akeem’s expanded family members and the possibility of a military takeover that no one outside of Zamunda will care about.

 ‘It’s hard for any movie to be as funny as the original, and twice as difficult for a sequel to fill its predecessors shoes. Replacement director Craig Brewer chooses to recycle a fair share of the same jokes from the original film, but also water them down by adhering to a PG-13 rating.’

Unhappy: The Guardian 's Peter Bradshaw's thoughts on the film were not much more positive, as he called it 'tired' in his two star review and criticised the 'old-fashioned', 'sexist' jokes

Unhappy: The Guardian ‘s Peter Bradshaw’s thoughts on the film were not much more positive, as he called it ‘tired’ in his two star review and criticised the ‘old-fashioned’, ‘sexist’ jokes

Following along the same lines, USA Today‘s Brian Truitt said the film is disappointing and simply not very funny in his two-star review.

‘The follow-up is a toothless, fleetingly funny revisit with some moments of greatness yet too much of the same old story to feel fresh,’ he wrote.

‘The sequel is rife with specific callbacks and shoutouts to the 1988 film – there are even scenes from the original movie played during the new one, maybe for those folks who haven’t been able to see it in the past 33 years? There’s also an edge to the R-rated first film sorely missing from the more family-friendly sequel.’

'Tired': Cinemablend 's Sean O'Connell found the film's was nostalgia not enough to sustain interest, criticising it for using the same old jokes as the original (pictured)

‘Tired’: Cinemablend ‘s Sean O’Connell found the film’s was nostalgia not enough to sustain interest, criticising it for using the same old jokes as the original (pictured)

AP‘s Jocelyn Noveck claimed the film wasn’t ‘nearly as funny or edgy’ as its predecessor because of it’s more toned-down humour.

She claimed: ‘It all feels like a 30th reunion — maybe because it IS one — where the liquor flows, old stories are rehashed, the men haven’t aged quite as well as the women, the kids steal the show, and by the end you’re happy to have gone but feel no need to be at the next one.’

A number of critics have given Coming 2 America a passing 3-star rating, suggesting that while it has it’s moments it isn’t able to recreate the hilarity of it’s predecessor.

Coming 2 America reviews 

The original film was billed as ‘laugh-a-minute’, and the ratio this time is more like a laugh every quarter of an hour.

Brian Viner, The Daily Mail

‘The film is a horrible mishmash, reboot atrocity, part narrative continuation, part retread, that proudly declares itself, midway through, as “a sequel to an old movie that nobody asked for”.’

Kevin Maher, The Times

 The movie is as tired and middle-aged as Akeem himself; Murphy is oddly waxy and stately, and has no authority figures he can really play off.’

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

‘Time has not been kind, and this tepid attempt to rekindle our interest in the series limps along on a rotating cycle of “Remember this?” gags and too-serious subplots.’

Sean O’Connell, Cinemablend

‘The follow-up is a toothless, fleetingly funny revisit with some moments of greatness yet too much of the same old story to feel fresh.’

Brian Truitt, USA Today

‘You’d have to place Coming 2 America somewhere between pleasant time-killer and missed opportunity – mileage may vary.’

Tim Robey, The Telegraph

‘It’s like watching a movie mold itself around the laugh track of the original. But when the original is genuinely funny.’

K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone

‘Coming 2 America doesn’t entirely capture the magic of its predecessor. But, fans of the original will enjoy the modern twist and callbacks to the first movie sprinkled throughout.’

Shyvonne Thomas, Digital Spy

‘If it’s missing the charm and Murphy’s magnetism from the first film, Coming 2 America delivers a broad, serviceable return to Zamunda.’

Whelan Barzey, Empire

‘Coming 2 America is a long-awaited sequel that aims squarely to serve its audience, with no apology and a surfeit of pleasures, both simple and wildly extravagant.’

Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

’33 years later, Eddie Murphy is back in his royal finery for a belated sequel whose title is the most original thing about it.’

Zaki Hasan, IGN

The Telegraph‘s Tim Robey gave one such review, criticising the film for not giving Murphy as much to work with as it’s predecessor.

‘Flimsy as a comedy, Coming 2 America mainly feels like a pretext for set-piece spectacle and wild-card cameos,’ he wrote.

‘You’d have to place Coming 2 America somewhere between pleasant time-killer and missed opportunity – mileage may vary.’

Rolling Stone‘s K. Austin Collins detailed his love for the original in his 3-star review, explaining to readers how it was a staple in his family home.

With that in mind, he said of the sequel: ‘It’s like watching a movie mold itself around the laugh track of the original. But when the original is genuinely funny…

‘Coming 2 America is technically a sequel, not a remake, but in the spirit of both the remakes and sequels we’ve been bombarded with of late, it may be wisest to consider it an update: a gentle massaging of the Eighties humor, which nowadays may feel a little out of date, maybe even cringe.’ 

In her 3-star review, Digital Spy‘s Shyvonne Thomas reiterated the sentiment that the sequel is unable to ‘capture the magic’ of its predecessor.

She wrote: ‘Each act of the movie flows quickly, but there isn’t much of an opportunity to feel and understand the chemistry between characters, nor does it have the strong messaging and charisma of the ’80s original.

‘It’s also difficult not to notice some of the sexism is still present. However, by the movie’s end, this is at least addressed.’

She went on: ‘Coming 2 America doesn’t entirely capture the magic of its predecessor. But, fans of the original will enjoy the modern twist and callbacks to the first movie sprinkled throughout.’

Writing for Empire, Whelan Barzey said in his 3-star review that the film has some fun moments but -again- isn’t as good as the original and is simply ‘serviceable’ as a sequel.

‘It’s a colourful, likeable re-spinning, replete with big dance sequences (one bizarrely to Prince’s 1991 banger ‘Gett Off’), a string of cameos, obvious messaging (walk your own path, kids) and gentle skewering of the Black experience, from gentrification to eschewing ideas around primitivism. 

‘Story-wise, there’s a lot going on here and the downside is that Murphy often gets sidelined in his own movie — also, while the character no longer has the winning innocence and naivety of a younger man, it never really finds new dimensions to replace these qualities.’

He added: ‘If it’s missing the charm and Murphy’s magnetism from the first film, Coming 2 America delivers a broad, serviceable return to Zamunda.’

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday enjoyed Coming 2 America, writing that while not a great movie, is a ‘modest success.’

She calls it a ‘long-awaited sequel that aims squarely to serve its audience, with no apology and a surfeit of pleasures, both simple and wildly extravagant. Chock full of callbacks, in-jokes, knowing references and replays, Coming 2 America is adamantly, unabashedly one for the fans. And, judged solely by that mission, it’s a straight-up, if modest, success.’  

IGN‘s Zaki Hasan felt that while the film was forgettable it was enjoyable enough, as he wrote: ’33 years later, Eddie Murphy is back in his royal finery for a belated sequel whose title is the most original thing about it.

‘And while it’s nice to see Murphy give his Zamundan accent another whirl alongside returning co-stars Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, and James Earl Jones, the resultant effort is painless enough but feels less like an essential add-on to a fairly beloved original than a by-the-numbers byproduct of Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for pumping out pre-existing brands in slightly new configurations.’ 

Coming 2 America is available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video. 

On the fence: A number of critics have given Coming 2 America a passing 3-star rating, suggesting that while it has it's moments it isn't able to recreate the hilarity of it's predecessor

On the fence: A number of critics have given Coming 2 America a passing 3-star rating, suggesting that while it has it’s moments it isn’t able to recreate the hilarity of it’s predecessor

Okay: Writing for Empire , Whelan Barzey said in his 3-star review that the film has some fun moments but -again- isn't as good as the original and is simply 'serviceable' as a sequel

Okay: Writing for Empire , Whelan Barzey said in his 3-star review that the film has some fun moments but -again- isn’t as good as the original and is simply ‘serviceable’ as a sequel


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