Movie Name: Coming to America
Studio: Eddie Murphy Productions
Release Date(s): June 29, 1988
MPAA Rating: R
Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is about to meet his bride. When Akeem decides he wants a chance to see the world, his father and mother (James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair) permit Akeem and his servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to travel to New York City. Akeem has a plan of his own. He wants to find his own bride and decides Queens must be the place to be. Living as a commoner for the first time Akeem and Semmi get jobs at McDowell’s where Akeem finds the woman of his dreams in Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley)…if he get Lisa to see the true Akeem.
Directed by John Landis, Coming to America is a romantic comedy. The film received mostly positive reviews and had a massive box-office return. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Costume Design and Best Make-up but also faced a lawsuit by Art Buchwald who claimed the film stole the script from a story he had written.
Coming to America was one of those adult comedies that I was allowed to see when it was new. It had nudity and sex jokes…something that was always great to see as a kid. What was good about Coming to America was that it also actually had a rather nice story.
The movie is pretty typical in the story. You know what is going to happen and it plays out as you expect it to. There are little surprises. The jokes are pretty strong and the movie really ends up having heart despite the cliché plot.
Eddie Murphy was king when this film was made and this is one of my favorite films he’s in. Murphy is extremely toned down in the main role and he’s charming. He’s teamed with Arsenio Hall who love the rich life, and both Hall and Murphy play multiple roles through the picture (which sometimes does sideline the picture’s plot). John Amos plays Shari Headley’s father and Eriq La Salle plays the romantic Soul Glo heir boyfriend. The movie also features Louie Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. making his premiere as a customer at the barber shop. Landis and Murphy previously worked together on Trading Places in 1983 and the movie features the return of Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy as their characters Mortimer and Randolph Duke in a small appearance.
The movie is quite typical ’80s. The movie has a lot of styles and looks that are total from the time period. The make-up on Murphy and Hall was done by Rick Baker and still stands up today. The movie also features some great costumes surrounding the African sequences in Zamunda (the fictional kingdom).
Coming to America continues to be a fun film. It works not only as a comedy but also as a nice romance (something a bit unusual for a Murphy film). The movie attempted to have a TV adaptation in 1989, but the pilot failed to be picked up. I could see Coming to America being revisited with Murphy’s son now seeking out a bride…I bet Hollywood is lazy enough to try it.