An African prince travels to Queens, New York to find a
bride who thinks for herself and will love him for who he is.
Coming to America (1988)
Directed by John Landis
Written by David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein
Starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, John Amos, Eriq La Salle, Paul Bates
Oscar Nominations - Best Costume Design, Best Makeup
Coming to America may just be Eddie Murphy's masterpiece. With the release of the long-awaited sequel on Prime Video, I felt it was a good chance to revisit the original comedy classic. It holds up so well and is surprisingly wholesome. Murphy and Arsenio are fantastic together, and the running gags never fail to make me laugh. Murphy managed to make comedy gold out of a simple yet effective premise that gave him a chance to showcase his talents at playing multiple characters, as well as establishing a likable and hilarious protagonist in Prince Akeem.
Akeem (Murphy) is the heir to the throne of Zamunda, and he is engaged to marry a woman he's never met. His parents, King Jaffe Joffer (Jones) and Queen Aoleon (Sinclair), only want what's best for him, but they don't understand Akeem's wishes. He wants to be self-reliant and he wants to fall in love with someone who doesn't just exist to obey him. So, Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Hall) go to Queens, New York, hoping to find a bride. Akeem falls in love with Lisa McDowell (Headley), daughter of restauranteur Cleo McDowell (Amos), who has an ongoing espionage feud with McDonald's. It's easily my favorite joke in the movie.
Coming to America never picks the low-hanging fruit. The jokes still land today, and it's in no danger of being cancelled. That's pretty huge for an 80's comedy. Not a lot of them are still watchable without a cringe moment every ten minutes. But this one still works. I haven't seen the sequel yet, as I plan to watch it as soon as I finish writing this, but I really hope it doesn't tarnish this film's surprisingly impeccable legacy.