Murphy delivers mediocre sequel with ‘Coming 2 America’

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming 2 America / Netflix

“Coming 2 America” isn’t a particularly good movie in terms of originality or creativity, but at least for this old fan of the original movie, it did make me laugh quite a bit.

The film’s humor isn’t exactly cutting edge, the plot is as familiar as most fairy tales, and some could certainly find the movie offensive for any number of reasons.

Watching it felt a little like eating month-old leftovers that you found in the back of the freezer. The movie was a bit stale but retained enough of the original flavor for me to choke it down.

Had I paid top dollar to see it in theaters instead of tuning in on Netflix, I might have felt a little bit cheated because the jokes and situations play more like a greatest hits album thrown together to cash in off of the remaining good will of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall fans before it’s too late.

The movie is simply a cash grab, working off the 30-plus-year-old good feelings from the 1988 hit movie that hasn’t aged gracefully.

Maybe the film’s most redeeming quality is that the cast looked like they had a heck of a good time making the movie. There is quite a bit of joy up on the screen as we return to the colorful fictional African nation of Zamunda.

Coming 2 America / Netflix

Murphy and Hall continue to share great chemistry, and it looks like they had fun hamming it up with the likes Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Morgan Freeman, and Louis Anderson among others.

The crux of the movie is that Akeem (Murphy) is about to be crowned King of Zamunda with the impending death of his father Jaffe (Jones). Cue the Lion King jokes. However, he and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have three beautiful and talented daughters but no male heir.

This could force his eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) into an arranged marriage with the son of Gen. Izzi (Snipes), ruler of Nextdoria and older brother of Imani (Vanessa Bell Calloway), the barking-mad woman whom Akeem spurned in the original film to marry Lisa.

Just as Akeem was unimpressed with Imani, he and Meeka aren’t at all thrilled with Izzi’s son Idi (Rotimi).

What is the Akeem to do?

As in the original, Hall and Murphy play a number of roles in the film in heavy make-up. The first to appear is Baba the witch doctor (Hall), who informs Akeem that he has an illegitimate son Lavelle (Jermain Fowler) who was conceived 30 years ago during his trip to America prior to meeting Lisa.

Akeem and Semmi return to America to find Akeem’s son Lavelle, and is reunited Mary (Jones), who is Lavelle’s mom and meets Reem (Morgan) Lavelle’s uncle.

Coming 2 America / Netflix

So, yes, the movie is basically a gender-switched Cinderella-type story with a lot of clowning from Murphy and the rest of the cast.

Along with Snipes’ high-stepping performance as Izzi, perhaps the best part of the movie is Murphy and Hall reprising their roles as the old men from the Queens barber shot. Those old dudes are just as profane and funny as ever, busting each other’s chops with snappy banter and putdowns.

Hall’s Rev. Brown and Murphy’s soul singer Randy Watson and his fictional band Sexual Chocolate also make appearances in the movie.

“Coming 2 America” isn’t going to make anyone’s award’s list. It’s the type of movie you absorb and forget.

However, if you liked the original, chances are you’ll probably find enough laughs in the movie to make it worth your while.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 50 min.
Grade: C

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Classic Corner – Murder by Death

Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Elsa Lanchester, and James Coco in Murder by Death / Columbia Pictures

Mel Brooks may have been king of the spoofy 1970s with classic comedies “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” but he wasn’t the only screenwriter to join the parody parade.

Four-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Neil Simon knew a good gig when he saw it, and opted to try his hand at sending up some of the most famous sleuths from literature and the sliver-screen with the hilarious but now somewhat dated film “Murder by Death.”

The send-up of mystery-novel heroes was directed by Robert Moore and lampoons popular literary detectives, including Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan with Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers), Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Desmond from the “The Thin Man films with Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith), Hammett’s Sam Spade with Sam Diamond (Peter Falk), and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with Milo Perrier (James Coco) and Miss Marple with Mrs. Marbles (Elsa Lancaster).

The detectives are invited to a dinner party at an old country mansion with murder being served as the main course. The host of the affair is the odd and mysterious Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) who is assisted by his blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum, (Alec Guiness) and deaf-mute cook Yetta (Nancy Walker). Twain challenges the sleuths to solve a murder for a million-dollar prize.

Like any spoof, the better you know the subjects being lampooned the funnier the film is, but “Murder by Death” contains plenty of hilarious hijinks along with a fair amount of twists and turns even for those who are clueless about old detective novels.

The comedy is a bit more sophisticated than your average “Three Stooges” comedy, with slightly less slapstick. If you’re a fan of Sellers’ “Pink Panther” films, this comedy will be right up your ally.

The film plays on Turner Classic Movies at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.