Coming 2 America attempts to break away from a comedic trap


Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Coming 2 America movie poster

On Mar. 5, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return to their iconic roles as Prince Akeem and his best friend Semmi in Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 classic comedy Coming to America. The original film is one of the most beloved comedies of all time. Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest movie stars of the time and he was able to bring something original to the comedy world: a majority African-American cast. While the sequel is highly anticipated, largely due to the lackluster movie releases in the past year, it is facing two challenges unrelated to the current status of the box office. 

The first is that comedy sequels are difficult to pull off. A film could return largely the same cast as its predecessor and there will still feel like something is missing. With the rare exception of films like Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop 2, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Wayne’s World 2, it is very hard for comedy sequels to capture the same level of charm as the first installment. Comedy sequels often repeat the same jokes and gags as the original film, a trend that leaves viewers underwhelmed with stale humor. Unfortunately, there is a lack of originality that comes with comedy sequels that is hard to overcome no matter how talented the cast or redeeming the plot.

This is especially true with the era of comedy that the original Coming to America belongs to. Iconic 1980s comedies like Caddyshack and Fletch are followed up by two really disappointing sequels that felt like nothing more than cash grabs. They lacked a captivating narrative and the jokes fell flat because of their predictability and in some cases, outdatedness.

From the trailers, it seems like Coming 2 America will follow Murphy as he travels to New York to bring his long-lost son back to Zamunda, the fictional African nation Akeem rules, to make him king. The trailers show Murphy and Hall returning to some of the original’s iconic settings like the barbershop and community center, featuring characters that are simply repeating the comedic bits that took place in the first film. While there is some new energy with Welsey Snipes and the addition of  Tracy Morgan and Leslie Jones to the cast, Coming 2 America will need a different kind of humor to avoid the repetitive feel that has plagued so many other comedy sequels. 

Finding original humor will also be a challenge for Murphy, Hall, and the rest of the cast simply because of the way that comedy has changed over time. The original film features many jokes and harmful stereotypes regarding the African heritage of Akeem and Semmi, New York City’s homeless population, and gender expression. In one scene in the 1988 film, Murphy and Hall dress in drag and make sexually charged jokes. 

It’s no secret that comedy has changed since the ‘80s, largely due to the increased advocacy for, and representation of, minorities in the media over the last 30 years. I am very interested to see if and how Murphy, Hall and the rest of the cast are able to further the legacy of Coming to America by incorporating original, non-offensive humor and break the trend of disappointing comedy sequels.