(director/writer: Craig Brewer; screenwriters: Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield; cinematographer: Joe ‘Jody’ Williams; editors: Billy Fox/David S. Clark/Debra Neil-Fisher ; music: Jermaine Stegall; cast: Eddie Murphy (King Akeem/Clarence/Saul/Randy Watson), Arsenio Hall (Semmi/Morris/Rev. Brown/Baba), Shari Headley (Lisa), Jermaine Fowler (Lavelle Junson), Lesley Jones (Mary Junson), Tracy Morgan (Uncle Reem), Kiki Layne (Meeka), Wesley Snipes (General Izzi), James Earl Jones (King Jaffe Joffer), John Amos (Cleo McDowell), Teyana Taylor (Bopoto), Vanessa Bell Calloway (Immani Izzi), Rotimi (Idi Izzi), Paul Bates (Oha), Nomzamo Mbatha (Mirembe), Bella Murphy (Omma); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13 ; producers: Kevin Misher, Eddie Murphy; Paramount Pictures/Amazon Studios; 2021)

“If you saw the old film there seems to be no reason to see this woeful remake.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A safe retread of the fairy tale romantic comedy film in 1988. Craig Brewer (“Footloose”/”Dolemite Is My Name
“) directs this self-satisfied comedy that’s filled with the reunion of characters from the old version and a cloying nostalgia leftover from the original that wasn’t as hot and these creators seem to think. If you saw the old film there seems to be no reason to see this woeful remake. Writers Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield easily, or should I say, too easily, fit the new film into the old one. One of the major problems was it wasn’t too funny.

In the fictional African country of  Zamunda, it’s elderly dying King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, 90 year-old ) tells his son, the Crown Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), that he and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) have three girls but no boy, therefore Akeem must return to Queens and find his “bastard son,” the unknown one  that the seer Baba (Eddie Murphy) says lives in Queens, New York, and to bring him back to their country to take his rightful place in the line of succession to the king.

Akeem and his loyal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) go to Queens on this mission, just like they went together to find his wife in the first film. The politically shrewd and despotic General Izzi (Wesley Snipes, a great performance), from the kingdom of Nextdoria, sees this as an opportunity for his son Idi (Rotimi) to marry Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne) and get closer to the throne in Zamunda.

In Queens, Akeem re-visits the barbershop where Clarence, Saul (the white-faced patron) and Morris are still working and making corny jokes, and now politically incorrect ones that make fun of transgenders. Murphy plays Clarence and Saul, while Arsenio is Morris.

When Akeem locates his lost son, a result of a one-night stand,
Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), his outspoken sex worker mother (Leslie Jones) and uncle (Tracy Morgan), he brings them all back to the Palace. They are greeted there by the scheming General Izzi, and he proposes that Lavelle marry his sexy daughter (Teyana Taylor). But Lavelle chooses instead the nice girl Zamundan hairstylist, Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha).

Cameos include: ‘90s R&B and hip-hop groups, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, plus Morgan Freeman and Trevor Noah.

The sequel is lazily put together, falling back on mostly the same characters, same story-line and punchlines as the original. My laughs came mostly from Snipes and his flamboyant characterization. But I can appreciate that a Black audience saw the original in a prideful way, perhaps in a way that my white eyes didn’t see it, as Hollywood at last depicts an African country that’s rarely seen onscreen that is independent, wealthy, fashionable and where Black culture reigns supreme.

This film lacks the original film’s originality, and was made for the old Hollywood reason that they thought they can milk it again for some more money. Its weariness, self-indulgence and timidity shows. 

Coming 2 America