COMING TO AMERICA - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
COMING TO AMERICA
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 2, 2021
EDITOR’S NOTE: The late-in-coming sequel to this film, ‘Coming 2 America,’ was to be a theatrical release but, thanks to Covid it was sold off by Paramount Pictures to Amazon Prime, where it is streaming now. How is that sequel? You’ll have to find that out for yourself; I won’t be watching. Meanwhile, Paramount Home Entertainment has released the first film in a new 4K edition, so here’s my review, published on June 30, 1988, in the Deseret News.
Recently an interview with Eddie Murphy said he considered “Coming to America” his best film. If that’s true, maybe he never watched “Beverly Hills Cop” or “Trading Places.”
Or maybe he hasn’t actually seen “Coming to America.”
Far from his best film, this is more a prolonged vanity piece laced with inside jokes, bungled ideas and scenes that go on far too long.
There are some funny moments, but it’s apparent that Murphy’s ego has overtaken his talent and the former is beginning to rule the latter a bit too much.
Eddie Murphy, left, Arsenio Hall, 'Coming to America' (1988)
The idea — from a story by Murphy himself — is wonderful, with the star playing Prince Akeem, a naive, innocent, well-educated African prince who wants to set aside the stifling traditions of his culture and find an “opinionated” American woman to be his wife.
And Murphy’s performance as the prince is also nice, with a sweetness that hasn’t really come through in his other characterizations.
The film has Prince Akeem being forced into an arranged marriage. But first he talks his father into letting him celebrate his 21st birthday by “sowing his royal oats” with a 40-day trip. So he and his subservient best friend (Arsenio Hall) head for New York, where Akeem really plans to find someone who will love him for himself. But just so it will be someone worthy they choose, appropriately, to reside in Queens.
Once there they try to adapt to what they perceive as the American way of life, living in poverty to disguise their royal trappings. They start working as janitors at a McDonald’s rival (run by John Amos), and Murphy falls for the boss’ daughter (Shari Headley).
The rest is quite predictable, but story aside the film is mostly made up of hit-and-miss skits, some that are quite funny and many that fall extremely flat.
Murphy’s story idea is fleshed out by first-time screenwriters David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein, who worked with Murphy during his “Saturday Night Live” years. But like that TV show, this film is extremely uneven.
Worse, director John Landis, whose work on “Trading Places” and “An American Werewolf in London” showed some first-rate comic talent, here continues his spiral downward, following “Spies Like Us,” “Into the Night” and “Three Amigos!” with yet another bland, meandering formula comedy.
Murphy and Hall’s talent makes the film worth a look for fans, and it helps to have people of the stature of John Amos and James Earl Jones around. (And there’s a funny joke for fans of “Trading Places.”)
But if you start wondering why the camera lingers too long on so many supporting characters who are not all that funny, you’ll see during the end credits that it’s because Murphy and Hall, under tons of makeup, are playing many of those characters. An OK gimmick but out of place in this film.
Rated R for nudity, profanity and vulgarity, all in abundance, “Coming to America” is a real disappointment from talented people who should know better.