"Coming to America"

How to make the ‘Coming to America’ Sequel an Improvement on the First

After the progressive depictions of a fictional African nation in “Black Panther,” a “Coming to America” sequel might be a step backward.

Thirty years after his original journey, Prince Akeem is returning to the United States to find an heir to the throne of Zamunda. That’s right: As Variety reported last week, Paramount is planning a sequel to the 1988 comedy “Coming to America,” with Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) set to direct. Eddie Murphy will reprise his role as the overly-coddled Zamundan royal who travels to New York to find the woman of his dreams. Fans of the original may be excited to see Murphy return to one of his most beloved roles. While the movie divided critics, it resonated with audiences who were charmed by Murphy’s likable performance, and wound up grossing over $288 million worldwide.

But another dose of this playful fairy tale might have a hard time in the 21st century, facing cultural challenges that would have gone unquestioned three decades ago. Before Brewer and Murphy get the ball rolling on the sequel, which the studio has already slated for an August 2020 release date, they should consider some of the ways in which this material might go very wrong.

Read More:When Paramount Withheld ‘Coming to America’ From Film Critics, Worried About Box Office, Not Knowing What They Had…

Of course, it’s hard to deny that no matter its problematic ingredients, “Coming to America” is not without its very funny moments. Most notably, Murphy and Hall demonstrate an uncanny ability to morph into different characters, each playing a minimum of four throughout the film, and sometimes in sequences in which they inhabit multiple characters in the same scene.

But accountability matters. Africans living in America at the time of the first film’s release suffered through countless “Coming to America” jokes — and, for some, the film’s depictions of Africa and Africans only helped further an ignorance that was prevalent at the time. For example, in Zamunda, animals that would be normally found in a zoo are seen casually walking amongst Zamundans, which is not at all the reality for the vast majority of Africans.

A “Coming to America” sequel is arguably 30 years too late, and it’s a bit of a mystery why Murphy and company are revisiting Zamunda now, other than to capitalize on a property and reboot Murphy’s box office potential. But in an environment that’s heavy on reboots of old franchises, “Coming to America 2” is maybe par for the course. Murphy is also reportedly queuing up a fourth “Beverly Hills Cop” movie, and teaming up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito for a sequel to “Twins,” tentatively titled “Triplets.” No matter the broader representational problems with “Coming to America,” the plans for a sequel may tell us less something about Murphy’s cultural sensitivity than his willingness to repeat the same old routines.

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