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'Coming 2 America' Goes Heavy On Nostalgia

NOEL KING, HOST:

Eddie Murphy's "Coming 2 America," a sequel, debuts on Amazon Prime video today. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the movie leans too heavily on nostalgia.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Unless you're a huge fan of Eddie Murphy's classic 1988 film "Coming To America" - and lots of people are - there's not going to be a lot for you in it's less-than-inspired sequel, "Coming 2 America."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COMING 2 AMERICA")

EDDIE MURPHY: (As King Akeem) Today, we celebrate 30 years of Zamundan prosperity, 30 years of service to our great nation and 30 years of delicious fast food.

DEGGANS: The new film begins with Murphy's Prince Akeem Joffer opening a fast-food restaurant called McDowell's in the African country of Zamunda. Devotees of the first movie know this chain is owned by Akeem's American father-in-law, played by John Amos, who denies his business is in any way a rip-off of another well-known burger joint.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COMING 2 AMERICA")

JOHN AMOS: (As Cleo McDowell) They've got Egg McMuffins. We've got Egg McStuffins.

LOUIE ANDERSON: (As Maurice) We are also celebrating our new Beyond Big McBurger.

MURPHY: (As King Akeem) So there's no meat.

ANDERSON: (As Maurice) There's no meat. Maybe it would taste much better with a Pepsi.

DEGGANS: The callbacks here are as subtle as a sledgehammer. This scene mostly gives us an excuse to see Amos and Louie Anderson, who also appeared in the first film. The story of the original movie was a Black-centered fairy tale. Murphy's Akeem came to America - Queens, N.Y., of course - to avoid an arranged marriage and find true love. In the new movie, after the death of his father, King Akeem discovered he fathered a son unknowingly in America. Akeem's return to Queens brings one of the sequel's funniest moments when he revisits a local barbershop where movie magic allows Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall to play multiple parts, just like in the first film.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COMING 2 AMERICA")

MURPHY: (As Saul) Hey, it's Kunta Kinte and Ebola.

MURPHY: (As Clarence) Famine and "Blood Diamond."

ARSENIO HALL: (As Morris) Nelson Mandela and Winnie.

MURPHY: (As King Akeem) I have just discovered that I may have a bastard son here in this land conceived during my last visit.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) How much child support she getting from you?

HALL: (As Semmi) The king pays no child support.

HALL: (As Morris) No child support for 30 years and you came back. You's a dummy.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: Comic Jermaine Fowler plays the son, Lavelle Junson, who brings King Akeem home to meet his mother, Mary, played by "Saturday Night Live" alum Leslie Jones.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COMING 2 AMERICA")

LESLIE JONES: (As Mary Junson) My African. I told you he was gonna come back.

JERMAINE FOWLER: (As Lavelle Junson) So you know this man.

JONES: (As Mary Junson) I definitely know this man. I know this man all the way live.

DEGGANS: As much as I love Leslie Jones, she and Lavelle's other American relatives, including Tracy Morgan as his uncle, come off as uncomfortable stereotypes. As King Akeem introduces his son to Zamunda and pressures him into an arranged marriage, the comedy gets clunkier and more predictable, like a Mel Brooks-style parody of "The Black Panther," "The Lion King" and the first "Coming To America." Ultimately, this "Coming 2 America" is mostly an excuse to bask in the glow of characters who shone so much brighter and distinctively 33 years ago. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.