Coming to America (1988) – Review

Coming to America revolves around a privileged and somewhat sheltered African Prince named Akeem (Eddie Murphy), who formulates a plan to travel to New York and go undercover, thus attempting to find a wife that he can appreciate for both her beauty and intelligence. Leaving behind his homeland of Zamunda, he must mingle with the locals and become accustomed to a more “normal” lifestyle, relinquishing the lavish one he is so accustomed to. A timeless comedy, that is now over thirty years old.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Director: John Landis
Writers: Eddie Murphy, David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones

For sure, Coming to America is a movie many of us have seen, and recently I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to sit down and watch it again. Eddie Murphy boasts a tremendous catalogue of films that he’s starred in over the years – The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle and the four Beverly Hills Cop movies instantly springing to mind – but it’s fair to say that this one is right up there with the best of them.

One of the primary strengths of the movie is the fact that there are more than one, genuinely loud out loud moments – the humour for large parts is authentic and believable, rather than forced and cringeworthy like in many films in this tricky genre. It’s also worth noting that much of the humour seems relevant to this day, rather than aged and outdated like in many comedies dating back to the 1980’s.

It’s easy to look at the movie on a whole and see it as just a flick you’re able to just sit back and laugh to, but the filmmakers managed to make it much more than just a throwaway comedy flick. It was also an effective tale of a man finding happiness off his own back, in a less than conventional way, without the assistance of his family. The contrast in backgrounds between each of the characters was evident too, even the contrast in attitudes between Prince Akeem himself and his right-hand man, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), who were polar opposites while undercover in America.

Rather uniquely, some of the actors on display managed to fill more than just one role in the film. The acting in general was solid enough for a movie of this nature, but of course Eddie Murphy’s role as Prince Akeem stole the show, along with his diverse portrayals of Clarence, Saul and Randy – the infamous barbershop trio. Elsewhere, Arsenio Hall also did an impressive job, with his portrayals of Semmi, Morris and Reverend Brown, respectively.

In terms of support, there was also an unbelievably varied cast to call upon too – James Earl Jones adopted the role of Prince Akeems father, while Madge Sinclair portrayed his loving mother. Samuel L. Jackson even managed to find himself thrown in amongst the action too – as a crook trying to rob a fast-food restaurant – and finally, there was a non-speaking role given to Cuba Gooding Jr. also, who found himself injected into one of the barber shop scenes.

All in all, a movie filled with vibrant and funny moments, with a really interesting, unique, and effective story to go with it, along with some spontaneous musical and dance performances too – well worth a watch, especially as the follow up, Coming 2 America has just been released.

“It would be wise for you to put the weapon down.”

Prince Akeem – Coming to America

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