Coming 2 America: New Yorkers in Zamunda

Coming 2 America: New Yorkers in Zamunda

Coming 2 America: If one can sit through cringey "African accents" and take the elephants as hyperbole, they could score some laughs for nostalgia's sake.

Coming to America, originally released in 1988, is a cringeworthy watch in 2021. The cult classic opens with the song "Imbube" performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and shows the royal family of Zamunda living alongside elephants and zebras. Throughout the film, Africans are portrayed as savages who don't understand basketball, marvel at discarded glass and can't use mop buckets.

With its recently released sequel, Coming 2 America, which comes 32 years later, the film's original writers and director Craig Bowler had an opportunity to place the franchise on the right side of history. They try, but, for the most part, they fail.

Whereas Coming to America followed Africans as they navigate The Big Apple, in Coming 2 America, it's Americans who find themselves in Zamunda. They are the outliers whose slang, mannerisms and casual dress deem them the savages in a royal house of great mannerisms and dignified language.

Now the new king of Zamunda after the death of his father King Jaffe Joffer, still played by James Earl Jones, Akeem (reprised by Eddie Murphy 32 years later) finds himself in many similar situations that his father also faced in the original film. He gets to navigate outdated traditions he struggled against in his youth. Much like King Jaffe did when he used his power to allow his son to marry Lisa McDowell (still played by Shari Headley from the original movie) more than 30 years ago, Akeem has to exercise discretion while adjusting the royal rules that aren't aligned with the modern world.

While the film attempts to include themes like feminism, it expectedly falls short. Coming 2 America contradicts itself with its treatment of non-consensual sex between Akeem and Mary Junson (played by Leslie Jones) which lead to the birth of their son and surprise heir to the throne, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler).

Coming 2 America Official Trailer #2 | Prime

One waits for the whole movie for the incident to be addressed for what it is—sexual harassment, but it's instead treated as just another joke. It's a missed opportunity to deal with the often overlooked issues surrounding male rape, an injustice societies globally struggle to find the language to comprehend. Or maybe the movie is just holding a mirror to society in that regard. One never really knows.

But, Coming 2 America doesn't try to be overly political. It maintains its goofy nature and, unfortunately, a few of the elephants too.

Read: In Conversation with Nomzamo Mbatha on the Role of Her Life in 'Coming 2 America'

Coming 2 America exists in a time when African culture, music and fashion are in vogue. Maxhosa is a premier African luxury brand, and African (mostly Nigerian) musicians are ensuring the world knows there's more to the continent's music scene than Angelique Kidjo and Ladysmith Black Mambazo (unless you ask the Grammys). Davido makes an appearance in the movie, as does Trevor Noah and of course Maxhosa's outfits.

Unlike Marvel's Black Panther, Coming 2 America isn't a movie bringing disruption to a white franchise. It's a sequel to a movie made by Black people for Black people. It doesn't claim to try and change a narrative or introduce any firsts for Black people.

Still, that doesn't excuse the wholesale African accent that all African characters are made to adopt. Many viewers have expressed their disgust at Nomzamo Mbatha (who plays Mirembe), an African actress losing her South African accent for the African accent that Hollywood insists on.

Commenting on this portrayal of African characters, Nomzamo Mbatha in a recent interview with OkayAfrica, said:

"I would say rather than looking at it from that point of view, it's actually a lot towards how Black America sees Africa. It's not even an insult to Africa. It's an insult to how Black America's ignorance can have such a great play in terms of how backward Africa can be viewed. But I think that's why it's also important for us to continue to have films like Coming 2 America, to open that up and say, 'Hey, that's not the play.'"

Just like Coming To America, the sequel is a light-hearted piece of entertainment with a dreamy cast of black actors. The sequel retained several members of the original cast—Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Paul Bates— which plays successfully on nostalgia.

Save for some shortcomings, if one can sit through the cringey accents, unaddressed sexual assault at the center of the plot, and take the elephants as hyperbole, they could score some laughs. If the misrepresentation and unoriginal plot are too much for you, give this one a pass.

Watch Coming 2 America on Prime Video.