The 1980s and 1990s were Eddie Murphy's time to shine. His three-year run on "SNL" was the jumping-off point that morphed into a movie career that kicked off with "48 Hrs.," "Trading Places," and "Beverly Hills Cop." There followed a mix of sequels, some hits, some misses, the unexpected nuttiness of the "Shrek" films," and a terrific recent "comeback" of sorts with "Dolemite Is My Name."
But it was "Coming to America," in 1988, featuring Murphy as Akeem, the Prince of Zamunda, who journeys to Queens to find a wife, and encounters love along the way, that remains among his most popular films, in which he additionally played, under a wealth of makeup, three other characters, including a white Jewish man.
It only took three decades and three years for a sequel to come to fruition. The cleverly titled "Coming 2 America" is a revisiting of many of the same characters - many played by the same actors - in a continuation of the story. Prince Akeem is happily settled in Zamunda with his American wife Lisa (Shari Headley); his father, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) knows that he's nearing the end of his reign, and life; and Akeem's right-hand man Semmi (Arsenio Hall) is still a well-meaning but not very effective right-hand man.
The sequel once again deals with family values, but also has a political component that ties in with an issue of old traditions versus contemporary mores. Early on in the film, Prince Akeem becomes the new king of Zamunda. One of his responsibilities is to look to the future, to what will happen to the kingdom once he, too, is gone. The crown, according to Zamundan law, can only go to a male heir, and Akeem and Lisa only have three daughters.
But, Akeem is told for the first time, by the loyal Semmi, he has a bastard son in America. You know, from when we were in Queens and you spent some time with a "morally bereft woman."
No, he doesn't recall that incident, but we're treated to it in a wild flashback from 30 years earlier, that involved drugs and partying and a prostitute named Mary (Leslie Jones) who took a liking to him. A physical liking.
The main plot involves Akeem's return to Queens, Semmi in tow, with plans of finding, introducing himself to, and bringing his son back to Zamunda, where he will someday rule. Along the way, Akeem visits the first film's My-T-Sharp barbershop, where both Murphy and Hall hilariously bring back some of their old characters as if - except for some aging - a day hadn't passed. The son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), isn't interested in this strange man or his story, but his mom sure is. Leslie Jones, in excitable, overacting mode, immediately recognizes Akeem and shouts, to whoever is listening, "My African! I told you he was gonna come back!"
At the same time, a story introduced earlier in the film is taking shape. General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, showing off some perfect comic timing), from the nearby Nextdooria, is planning to assassinate Akeem and take over Zamunda unless, of course, Lavelle marries his daughter Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), thereby setting up a possible takeover of power.
Complicated bottom line: The Americans return to Zamunda with the Africans, where Lavelle gets a taste of the princely life, Mary sees nothing but gold everywhere her money-hungry eyes look, Lisa is not happy that she didn't know about this son, Akeem's daughters are becoming a bigger part of the picture, and Akeem, doing what he believes is right, is being pulled in all directions.
Like its predecessor, "Coming 2 America" is sweet, funny, and just a tad raunchier. It also has a special treat for longtime Eddie Murphy fans. In 1983's "Trading Places," his character was part of an experiment concocted by the wealthy Duke Brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). In "Coming to America," the Dukes had a cameo as down-on-their-luck homeless men. In "Coming 2 America," although both actors are no longer with us, they again make an impressive cameo. You'll see them in an otherwise throw-away scene in the offices of D&D Digital Corporation.
"Coming 2 America" premieres on Amazon Prime on March 5.
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.