ST. LOUIS — Halfway through Craig Brewer's new film, a character launches into an attack on American cinema: proclaiming it's stuffed with superhero movies, remakes, and sequels that no one asked for.
"Coming 2 America" is a match for that last part. Upon finishing, I can assure you this one didn't need to happen, but I guess it will satisfy fans desperate for current events at the palace in Zamunda. Within the first five minutes, you are reminded that not only has Prince Akeem's story gotten tired, the actors seem bored too. Eddie Murphy just endlessly smiles, and Wesley Snipes won't stop dancing. The duo reunite here with their "Dolemite is My Name" director Brewer, but the result isn't halfway as strong.
Before we get into the details of what went wrong and whether or not I laughed, let me assure you that this film is basically critic proof. I could tell someone in St. Louis that watching this sequel to the 1988 classic will cause all the gooey butter cake to simultaneously combust, and they would still click PLAY. I could inform fans in Texas that BBQ will cease to exist for a week, and they would just keep the current brisket going low and extremely slow. When Murphy created these characters, teaming up with Arsenio Hall for an adventure film that managed to touch the heart and ignite the funny bone decades later.
But everything that seemed fresh back then seems overcooked and tired here. We are in retread territory. There was a ton of heart invested in this production, but it doesn't translate or come off well onscreen. Small moments with John Amos' McDowell's owner carry some spark, while others fail to hit the mark. An entire subplot with Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan, two very talented people, just isn't funny. Half of what Snipes tries to do with his comical villain falls flat. Hall does overtime in creating much energy with his character.
Worst of all, Murphy doesn't register at all here as Akeem. He's going through the motions. I wouldn't say the original hinged on his performance, but this one is drained by his lack of screen presence. It's evident from the first pitch that something is being forced. What I wanted in the end was more time with the barbershop gang of cynical gossipers. That is still some of Murphy and Hall's best work. It's as if the characters never left that small hole in the wall shop in Queens, arguing about everything possible inside a matter of minutes. That registers, but many of the returning characters do not-and the new ones don't leave much of a dent either. While Shari Headley endures and gets to unleash some of her comedic side, it's all too brief.
It's all heading towards a predictable ending that could be seen from the very first scene. But that would have been completely fine, if the 90 minutes before it mattered even a little. It's a cash grab special, I am afraid. Another example of Hollywood reaching back into the past, losing their footing, and making the entire picture now look worse. Why do treasured movies always need a next chapter? Catching lightning in a bottle twice apparently is still a hard endeavor. The wise move would be leaving it alone, especially if nothing new is there and it's been 30 years. Now, on the other hand, I wouldn't mind another "48 Hours" edition with an even crazier Nick Nolte.
The bloopers at the end of "Coming 2 America" make you wonder if two hours of those goofs would have been a better idea for a movie. I'd say just watch the original and enjoy yourself.
Bottom Line: Nostalgic at its most nauseous, "Coming 2 America" fails to register as a required sequel, much less an actual enjoyable one.