Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Shari Headley
Directed by: John Landis
Prince Akeem of the fictitious African nation of Zamunda celebrates his 21st birthday upon which his parents select his his bride and future queen. Unhappy with the process Akeem travels to America to find his own bride.
The 1980’s was a glorious period for Eddie Murphy as his career took off in a big way. Starring in movies of high calibre such as 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places, I can now add Coming to America to that list. It’s a movie that receives quite a lot of recognition as an eighties comedy classic and I can certainly see why. It’s weird to think that up until the late-nineties Eddie Murphy was a superstar of comedy and I have no idea where it all went wrong but from the early 2000’s his career spiralled with no sign of halting.
Eddie Murphy stars as Prince Akeem of Zamunda, a fictitious African country which its monarchy is obscenely wealthy and have created a life for Akeem where he does nothing for himself. Upon turning 21 years old Akeem has reached the age where his parents choose his bride and future queen of Zamunda. Unhappy at the tradition that his father is forcing upon him as he wants a woman to love him for who he is rather than what he is, Akeem and his friend Semmi set off to America to find his future wife. Naturally they are drawn to Queens, New York to find an appropriate woman but the search starts off being harder than expected. He then meets Lisa McDowell who helps her father run McDowells fast food restaurant and he falls head over heels. Hiding his royal heritage, he and Semmi get a job working for Lisa’s father where Akeem can try and win her over and make her the future Queen of Zamunda.
Coming to America highlights Eddie Murphy’s great comedic presence and his and Arsenio Hall’s chemistry together was great and they played off each other really well. I previously thought that The Nutty Professor was the first movie in which Eddie Murphy played multiple characters with the use of makeup but evidently not. I Was surprised at how good the makeup was for the time of release as both Murphy and Arsenio Hall played multiple characters and did so well. This movie was also enhanced by a wonderful, albeit short, performance from the great James Earl Jones as Jaffe Joffer, the King of Zamunda. I really do enjoy his performances regardless of how small a role he plays he’s always superb. The movie had plenty of laughs throughout and was an enjoyable two hours of fun which just flew by.
One of the main flaws that Coming to America had was Eddie Murphy’s African accent. One of the characters he played was an old Jewish man, which until the credits I had no idea it was him, which the accent was spot on but he struggled to nail the African accent and keep it consistent through the course of the movie. I was just surprised that for somebody who is able to play multiple characters with different voices in his movies that he couldn’t get the hang of an African accent and in all fairness to Eddie Murphy, the rest of the cast who were playing African characters didn’t really attempt one either.
In conclusion, Coming to America was a fantastically funny and enjoyable movie which I can’t believe is 30 years old. This movie highlights the comedic powerhouse that Eddie Murphy was in the early stages of his career and it’s a shame that the latter stages didn’t remain as strong.