Movie Review: Eddie & Arsenio get the Band back together — “Coming 2 America”

Damn.

No over-budgeted, under-scripted thirty-years-too-late Eddie Murphy sequel should EVER deliver as many smiles as “Coming 2 America.”

Not enough funny lines? Maybe a miscalculation, setting most of this “fish out of water” story in Africa instead of Queens?

But here’s Wesley Snipes, cleverly recast as the villainous General Izzi dance-stepping into the royal court of Zumunda at the head of an armed entourage drill team. His eyes are laughing. And so were mine.

This high-tone farce has song and dance, dirty and lowdown and Eddie and Arsenio Hall — at their best in bit parts covered in old age makeup — revisiting a character comedy that wasn’t much of anything except a BLOCKbuster, a movie humorist Art Buchwald took Eddie and Paramount to court over.

But nostalgia is designed to give you the warm fuzzies, and “Coming 2” has those, and how.

Back to that Queens barbershop with Murphy and Hall playing geezers, back to church with Arsenio killing it as a sexist, greedy old preacher, back to McDowell’s with John Amos insisting his joint is “NOTHING like McDonald’s.”

Throw in Morgan Freeman narrating a funeral — in person — cameos by En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa and Dikembe Mutumbo, Colin Jost sending up his “privileged-racially-clueless” persona, Trevor Noah in a mustache as a TV anchor for the Zamunda News Network and James Earls Jones intoning “This…is ZNN!”

It doesn’t add up to much. But this little “80s night” on the big screen delivers.

Prince Akeem is still married to his Queens girl Lisa (Shari Headley), but closing in on Charles of England as the oldest prince in the pack. But King Jaffa Joffer (James Earl Jones) knows the end is nigh. And despite having three smart and brave daughters (Kiki Layne plays the oldest), to his “shame and disappointment,” Akeem and Lisa haven’t produced a son to pass the kingdom on to.

Sexist as that is, it also could mean trouble from General Izzi and his minions from the covetous neighboring land of Nextdooria.

But wait! The court shaman (Guess who?) had a vision, and royal aide Semmi (Hall) confirms it. Akeem had a hook-up in Queens before he met Lisa. And that produced a “bastard” son.

Everybody in this enjoys saying “bastard.” Especially Akeem. He and Semmi flit off to New York to find the 30 year-old fatherless, unemployable ticket-scalper “bastard” Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), round him and his Mom (Leslie Jones) and maybe even his no-good uncle (Tracy Morgan) up and bring them back to Africa.

Only a royal wedding to Gen. Izzi’s bombshell daughter (Teyano Taylor) can save the day.

Craig Brewer of “Hustle & Flow” and TV’s “Empire” wasn’t the obvious choice to direct this comedy. But with lavish sets and funny people, many of them obviously thrilled to be in a project this high-profile again all these decades later, doing the heavy lifting, “Coming 2” never grinds to a halt.

The African setting — digital elephants and lions — is Georgia generic. And the young leading man barely holds his own with this august cast, even if the older returning characters are a little joke-deprived, .

But “Coming 2 America” still provides enough smiles to make up for the lack of belly-laughs. And if you miss hearing Murphy’s famous “heh-heh-heh” laugh, stay through the credits.

MPA Rating: PG-13, violence, sexual jokes, “herb” jokes, profanity

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Shari Headley, Kiki Layne, Nomzamo Mbatha, Wesley Snipes, Teyano Taylor, Tracy Morgan and James Earl Jones.

Credits: Directed by Craig Brewer, script by Kenya Barris and David Sheffield. A Paramount/Amazon Studios release on Amazon Prime.

Running time: 1:49

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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