Coming to America Mar 4, 2021 12:18:57 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 4, 2021 12:18:57 GMT -5
Coming to America (1988)
Directed by: John Landis
Directed by: John Landis
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
You see a different Eddie Murphy in Coming to America than you're used to. You don't see the off-the-wall, manic Murphy you might've grown accustomed to in his standup specials. You don't see the slick-talking, gun-toting macho-man you saw in Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy is relaxed in Coming to America, playing a character you could reasonably describe as gullible, even vulnerable. I'd be lying if I said it doesn't take some adjusting at first, but after a few minutes, he has you hooked — the power of Murphy's comic ability on display yet again.
In Coming to America, Murphy plays Akeem, Prince of the African country Zamunda. He's rich beyond comprehension, but tired of being a bystander in his own life. Everywhere he walks, rose pedals are quite literally thrown. His hands are baby-soft, never having worked a day in his life. Per Zamundan tradition, his parents (James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair) have arranged their son to marry a lovely woman (Vanessa Bell) to be his bride, but her intent to predicate her personality off of his interests unsettles Akeem. Desiring real courtship, he sets out for America, specifically Queens, to live like a commoner and find his own wife.
In tow on this trip is his personal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) as the two shack up in a scuzzy New York apartment and work at McDowell's (home of the Big Mic sandwich). Akeem is oddly delighted by living like a working class member of society, if for no other reason than it's a foreign concept for a privileged man of royalty such as himself. During his sabbatical, he meets Lisa (Shari Headley), a smart, self-assured woman who is intrigued by his mannerisms and effect on others. The issue? She has no idea he's a prince. And she's dating the son of a hair gel tycoon.
Despite being more reserved than their traditional comic routines, Murphy and Hall make an affable pair, so much so that you wish they went the Farley/Spade route and at least did a couple more films together. They still find ways to sneak in their boundless energy by playing multiple side-characters, including a gaggle of loud-mouthed New Yorkers at a local barbershop, which is good for a few scenes. In Coming to America, Murphy's humor comes from his unfamiliarity with American customs; a complete naivete towards the world around him. He isn't a bumbling fish-out-of-water archetype, however. Typical Murphy, he takes it all in strides with an impossible, wide-eyed smile on his face. Aided by the reticent Hall, the two are a low-key dynamic primed to squeeze you for a few hearty laughs.
Saturday Night Live writers David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein mostly operate at a glacial pace, letting the narrative take time to build and, as such, our familiarity with the characters. Occasionally, it feels a little slow. One gets the feeling Zamunda operates on a time that makes Queens or any other borough in New York appear as if it's moving in fast forward. The good news is it never inhibits interest for long. Sheffield and Blaustein juggle a myriad of characters that hold our interest without the need for constant zingers or setpieces. More than a well-made comedy, this is a film that trusts its talent and conceit enough not to bombard us with prolific zaniness. It's no wonder why it is (and should be) ranked high in Murphy's dense catalog.
NOTE: My review of Coming 2 America: influxmagazine.com/coming-2-america-2021-review/
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, John Amos, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, and Vanessa Bell. Directed by: John Landis.