Coming 2 America (CREDIT: Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, Teyana Taylor, James Earl Jones, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Paul Bates, John Amos, Louie Anderson, Luenell, Colin Jost, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha

Director: Craig Brewer

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Occasionally Crude Silliness and a Drunken Sex Flashback

Release Date: March 5, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

So the big question we must all ourselves is: does Coming 2 America make me want to come 2 America? Well, I’m already in America, and have spent the vast majority of my life in this country, but I have to believe that there’s a difference between “coming to” and “coming 2,” because otherwise why even make this 30-plus-years-later sequel? Maybe in this case, “2” means the opposite of “to,” considering that this time around, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy, happy to be surrounded by friends) and company actually spend more time in Zamunda than they do in the U.S. of A. With that in mind, maybe “America” is a state of mind more than just a physical place. Looking back at Queens in 1988, that was a magical place for Akeem, despite its rough-and-tumble exterior. It’s where he found his queen, and it can now be seen as the wellspring of his own family, and in the sequel, it’s been elevated to the level of myth with the recreation of special Queens landmarks in Zamunda (in particular, the McDonald’s-knockoff McDowell’s). Is that feeling of home just as strong in 2021?

Coming 2 America (CREDIT: Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures)

The major hook of this film series is the desire to break free from the way things have always been done. Akeem managed to go his own way by finding an American wife, but as he’s due to finally ascend to the throne, he still finds himself bound by the decrees of his ailing father. (James Earl Jones returns as King Jaffe to quickly make some baritone commands and then hilariously close his eyes as he decides that it’s time to die.) Akeem and Lisa (Shari Headley) have three daughters, but Zamunda remains a patrilineal kingdom, so Akeem’s bastard son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), whose existence he wasn’t even aware of until just now, is apparently the best option for an heir. And it must be noted here that Coming 2 America has a little trouble itself breaking from the worrisome ways of the past, as Lavelle was the product of nonconsensual drunken sex that Akeem has no memory of. Comedy has a bad habit of brushing aside potentially traumatic experiences like this one, and it did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth in this case. But even when considering that dubious origin, I do appreciate that Lavelle’s mom (Leslie Jones) and family get along quite famously with Lisa and the Zamundans.

Lavelle’s conflict is essentially the mirror image of Akeem’s in the original, but he sure seems less enthusiastic about it, understandably so. The novelty of discovering that you’re a secret royal is exciting for him, but performing feats to prove his royal worthiness (like plucking a lion’s whiskers) aren’t exactly that appealing, especially when he’s not really sure he actually wants to be king. In fact, the central conflict of Coming 2 America is hardly a conflict at all, since it’s clear to Lavelle the whole time that he’d be happier just staying in Queens. Eventually a compromise is reached between him and Akeem, and it’s a deal that should have been staring them in the face right from the get-go. So the fundamental story here doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s not a death knell, because the deep bench of funny people in this cast ensures that this extra go-round is at least pretty consistently enjoyable on a scene-by-scene basis. Coming 2 America might not offer any great revelation that the original didn’t already give us, but at least Zamunda does indeed still feel like home, perhaps even more than it ever did.

Coming 2 America is Recommended If You Like: The prospect of Jermaine Fowler becoming a leading man, Soaking in all of Ruth E. Carter’s costumes, Colin Jost playing the token white boy stereotype

Grade: 3 out of 5 Princes