The majority of the Black delegation is up for the recently announced Coming to America sequel, but I’m not sure how to feel about it yet.
Coming to America is not just an undisputed classic, it is a cultural touchstone. We have such love for this movie that we enjoy revisiting it at every given opportunity and passing it down to younger generations. We watch it after cookouts and at Thanksgiving (Trading Places is for Christmas). Coming to America will stop you in your tracks while flipping through the channels. It doesn’t matter at what point in the movie you catch it, you’re watching the rest of it. Were you about to re-organize your pantry? It can wait, because you’re watching Coming to America, now.
So, naturally, when Deadline reported that Eddie Murphy was on board for a sequel, the masses were thrilled. Social media was buzzing with anticipation to catch up with Prince Akeem and his princess, Lisa. As excited as everyone else seems to be however, I haven’t been able to share in that joy. Make no mistake: I’m still going to go see it, but I have some serious concerns about Coming To America 2.
First of all, why do we even need a sequel? It’s been more than 30 years since we last went to Zamunda. Coming to America felt like a complete story in itself — one that doesn’t really need to be continued. The ending gave me happily ever after vibes, and I’m good with that because the movie was kind of a fairytale. What can a sequel possibly bring to this story? What more is there to add?
We’ve heard about other prospective sequels before. Martin Lawrence tried to shop one around a few years ago, and the premise sounded like trash. Now, if this new sequel revamped the original story with Akeem and Lisa’s son (ideally played by Michael Che or Chadwick Boseman), that could be cool. Or, if this story focused on finding Semmi a wife, I would need to see it. Better yet, if it centered on Akeem and Lisa’s daughter looking for love in the modern American dating scene, I would be all about it. Can you imagine an updated take on the club scene? The reactions would be a whole mood and highly gif-able. I would need Ryan Destiny or Aja Naomi King to play her.
Let’s be honest, the Eddie who starred in the original Coming to America is not the same man he is today; he’s not bringing the same comedy. That’s to be expected because his career has had to evolve in the 30-plus years since the movie first came out. Back in 1988, he was coming off of a phenomenal standup special and the original Coming to America was up there among other solid films in his repertoire like the Beverly Hills Cop franchise and Harlem Nights. With this sequel, we’re not even getting Vampire In Brooklyn Eddie.
This Eddie has starred in some questionable flicks and outright flops–which happens to the best of our faves. Still, this Eddie has had to redeem himself by literally making a jackass out of himself in the Shrek franchise as Donkey. There was something suave about 1988 Eddie, but 2019 Eddie kind of reminds me of someone’s cat daddy uncle (the one with a Bluetooth in his ear and a flip phone on his hip). For this sequel to work, I think it might be best to have Eddie lean into the slightly goofy side of Prince Akeem. Of course, this could also be an opportunity for us to see that Eddie still has it in him to really deliver the character we love so much.
I’m also not sure what to expect from this script. I know that Kenya Barris is tweaking the screenplay by Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, who wrote the original Coming to America. The script is in good hands with Kenya for sure; he does a fantastic job with Black-ish and Grown-ish, but those are distinctly different from the tone of Coming to America. His shows often handle weighty subjects with relatability and humor. On the other hand, he did write Girls Trip with Tracy Oliver which was fantastic, so Kenya might also be able to remix some of the jokes in Barry and David’s script that may not play so well today. Times have changed, and the punchlines that landed flawlessly in 1988 could be huge stumbling blocks today. Kenya’s pen could save the entire production from Black Twitter’s bad side. Furthermore, having Kenya on the script may provide an opportunity to address some of the more problematic elements of the original Coming to America like the blatant colorism.
Speaking of which, I would really love to see a concerted effort to correct that aspect of the original Coming to America. The responsibility of righting that wrong relies not just on the casting directors, but director Craig Brewer and producers (like Kenya) demanding more visually diverse casting for men and women. These same people are then responsible for making sure that they are not filling roles along an outdated desirability spectrum. Simply put, light-skinned women cannot be the only ones held up as being the most beautiful and dark-skinned women cannot be the only ones portraying the unwanted thots of the movie. Similarly, light-skinned men cannot be the butt of every joke. Dark-skinned men did just fine in the original. It’s 2019; we know better and we expect better.
Coming to America was a fantastic movie, so the sequel has a lot to live up to. I think people may be expecting a sequel that is exactly like the original, and I’m not sure that it can be. I’m not sure that it even should be. None of this will keep me from buying a ticket because I need to see this, but I can’t be as hype as about it until I know more about what we’re going to see.