The Royal P is painfully clean of inspiration, Your Highness, in Craig Brewer’s fan service filled sequel Coming 2 America (D+). It’s low stakes and low States, all the while firing blanks, as most of Prince Akeem’s story centers on Africa this time around, removing the fish out of water shenanigans which were the main attraction of the first film. Despite the presence of many comic actors, this follow-up is not very funny, relying on occasional bursts of pageantry, bits of whimsy and frequent musical cameos to basically tread water through the low-key variety show filling most of the film’s duration. The plot includes the discovery that Eddie Murphy’s regal character is baby daddy to a Manhattan ticket scalper (the charming Jermaine Fowler, salvaging what he can from a poorly written role), born of a feisty mom (an occasionally funny Leslie Jones), requiring some very brief trips Stateside from what is essentially a moribund melodrama set squarely in the Eastern hemisphere. Much of the film revolves around the princesses of the African kingdom (led by KiKi Layne doing fierce work despite the script) and an oddball Wesley Snipes as some sort of incidental rival villain. There’s so much retread in this cheese Zamunda that it actually resorts to flashbacks from the first film multiple times, just underscoring how old and tired some of its cast and schtick are. The enterprise is rescued at times by some sweet-natured familial moments and some roundabout girl power, plus a glimpse of the barber shop gang with a few zingers about political correctness. Otherwise it’s sloppy seconds all around for a bunch of game performers who aren’t given much to do.
Coming to America (B), directed by John Landis, is a classic fish out of water comedy with a contemporary twist. Eddie Murphy plays the naïf Prince Akeem of the fictional African country Zamunda who travels with his best friend (Arsenio Hall) to New York undercover in order to find his bride. Murphy is committed to the role as basically the straight man of the comedy but gets to unleash his inner stand-up by playing a bunch of supporting characters under clever prosthetics including the eccentric denizens of a Queens barber shop. Although there’s a through-line of a plot, it’s really a film of episodes representing varying levels of amusement. Landis does some effective world building with the exotic locations on multiple continents. Kudos to Murphy for lots of funny notions and for delivering some wry commentary amidst the madcap adventure. Ultimately there’s more lark than bite, but it’s mostly pleasant fun.