Coming 2 America

STREAMING REVIEW:

Amazon Prime Video/Paramount;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude and sexual content, language and drug content;
Stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Teyana Taylor, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha.

The long-anticipated sequel to 1988’s Coming to America is mostly successful in replicating the fun of the original film, if not necessarily the freshness of it.

Picking up more than three decades after the events of the first film, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) of the small African nation of Zamunda is now happily married to Lisa (Shari Headley, also reprising her role from the original), and they have three daughters. However, as King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) reiterates while on his deathbed, that the throne of Zamunda by law can only pass to a male heir. And without a son to secure his legacy, Akeem after his coronation can expect to be swiftly executed by agents working for Gen. Izzi (Wesley Snipes), the dictator of the neighboring country and older brother to the woman Akeem spurned in the first film to marry Lisa. Jaffe’s shaman, however, has a vision of a long-lost son of Akeem living in America, who can become the heir the country needs once Akeem is king.

Soon enough, Jaffe dies, and his funeral sets off a string of fun cameos that pop up throughout the film. This also being technically the third film of the Trading Places cinematic universe, viewers can rest assured that Coming 2 America, like its predecessor, makes appropriate nods to the Duke family from that 1983 comedy.

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For as lighthearted as it wants to be, though, Coming 2 America is almost derailed by an ill-conceived plot development that threatens to completely undercut whatever nostalgic good will carries over from the first film. That comes in the form of a flashback to events of the first film, in which it is revealed that Akeem at one point was inadvertently drugged, leading to an unintended sexual encounter with the woman (Leslie Jones), who would provide his only son. Even where this scene is supposed to have happened doesn’t seem to fit the timeline of the first film, but it does enough to move the plot forward.

So, Akeem and his loyal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) return to New York to retrieve his son. While the film delights in fun callbacks to the original film, it’s not a full rehash of the plot. Once Akeem finds his son, Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), it doesn’t take much convincing to get him to hop on a private plane back to Zamunda to begin training for his princely duties.

The attention on Lavelle, naturally, stirs tensions between Akeem and his daughters, who in the 21st century see no reason why women should not be able to inherit the throne.

Anyone looking for groundbreaking comedy isn’t likely to find it here. But fans of Coming to America should find plenty to enjoy in this continuation of the story of Zamunda and its zany royal family.

 

The Opening Act

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 12/15/20;
RLJE Films;
Comedy;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Jimmy O. Yang, Alex Moffat, Cedric the Entertainment, Neal Brennan, Debby Ryan, Ken Jeong, Bill Burr, Jermaine Fowler, Russell Peters, Whitney Cummings, Tom Segura, Iliza Shlesinger.

Fans of stand-up comedy should get a kick out of The Opening Act, the story of a young man at the crossroads of whether or not his life’s ambition is worth the pursuit. The cast of The Opening Act features a who’s who of the stand-up world, and only a few are actually playing the comedians.

Written and directed by stand-up comedian Steve Byrne (“Sullivan & Son”), and based in part on his own experiences starting out in stand-up, The Opening Act stars Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”) as Will Chu, a claims adjuster who aspires to be a comic because growing up he bonded with his late father watching stand-up comedy together.

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Struggling just to get enough stage time with local open mic nights, Will gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a friend recommends him for a weekend MC gig for the Pittsburgh Improv. The headliner is Billy G (Cedric the Entertainer), who Will idolized growing up.

However, one awkward encounter after another leaves Will questioning if he has what it takes to make it in comedy. The feature comedian, Chris (Alex Moffat of “Saturday Night Live”) constantly wants Will to party, throwing off his concentration. A disastrous promotional appearance on a local radio show puts him on the radar for hecklers, throwing off his game as he tries out new material that just doesn’t land.

He seems more like he’s trying to go through the motions of what he thinks a stand-up comedian should do, without understanding what it takes to connect with the audience, until Billy G takes some pity on him, reminds him that every comedian has to learn to bomb hard, and gives him some advice that might help him turn things around.

All in all, the message of perseverance should resonate with all viewers.

The Blu-ray includes a six-minute making-of featurette, a three-minute featurette in which the cast members discuss the difficulties of getting started in comedy, and 11 minutes of footage of extended stand-up performances from the likes of Yang, Cedric, Whitney Cummings, Ken Jeong and more.

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