Coming To America (1988)

“But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king.”“But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king.”

“But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king.”

Few stars in Hollywood could truly do no harm with whatever project he or she chooses to be in or create. Eddie Murphy is the epitome of that as his star power seems to grow with each role he’s in. This time around, Eddie is pitching the story for Coming to America. Imagine waking up to a symphony, having rose pedals thrown at your feet for you to walk on, getting the royal penis cleaned in a giant bathtub and having a different person handling brushing your teeth every single day, repeating over and over. It sounds luxurious – in fact it sounds like a sweet life.

For Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) it’s actually tiresome. He’s sick of walking on rose pedals and being treated as a delicate flower that needs pampering because of his status. He longs to use the toilet in private and have at least some peace and quiet. Akeem isn’t even fond of arranged marriages nor the song and dance that comes with it. King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) and Queen Aoleon (Madge Sinclair) are reluctant to let their only born find his way in the world, they’d rather him be sheltered but come around to their son’s wishes. 

The solution, Akeem accompanied by Semmi (Arsenio Hall) travel to America from Zamunda in search of a queen. And the best place to find a Queen who hasn’t studied him for her entire life is in… you guessed it Queens New York. Instead of staying in a high-rise fancy hotel like the Waldorf Astoria, Akeem makes it his mission to stay in the cheapest most meager of places that is riddled with crime and filled with true genuine New York spirit. Akeem and Semmi are so naïve to the so-called mean streets, they let all their luggage get stolen off the sidewalk. One degenerate thief even had the guts to sell them their entire gold collection of bathroom amenities. 

“Listen, I know what I like, and I know you know what I like, because you were trained to know what I like, but I would like to know, what do you like?”

Their quest begins at a night club where you can just see the excitement radiating off Akeem’s face as the two become acquainted with their new surroundings. Waves of different women from quiet to bizarre to downright crazy. This is where we start to see the genius of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. The talent they possess to play many different characters is mind blowing and sort of sets up how their career’s will take shape. Their ability to juggle so many identities and characters at once is truly miraculous while having the comedic timing to hit every note of dialogue. 

The story of Coming to America is simple, there isn’t much to it or too much to think about that would give you a headache. Man wants to find his wife the right way and fall in love while exploring the other side of wealth. While Murphy is the biggest comedy star in the 80’s, this is a vastly different Eddie than he is in Raw. Akeem is charming, naïve, humbling, sweet and just a purely genuine person. He isn’t the stereotypical highly privileged materialistic rich person.

Leave that to Semmi, He’s more of the one to not want to do manual labor or to live in an apartment that has a rat infestation or police lines of a human and a dog. It just so happens Semmi finds love too without even trying. This isn’t Semmi’s story, it’s Akeem’s. Akeem becomes smitten by Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) who unfortunately is in a relationship to the heir of Soul Glo Darryl (Eriq La Salle). The writing is smart in the regard that Akeem is more laidback he’s not a threat to Darryl nor does he try to intrude on their at first sound yet somewhat fragile relationship. He purposefully puts himself in the friend-zone letting the events play out for themselves. 

“Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.”

The comedy is subtle with so many moments that can have you bursting out laughing. The screenplay by David Sheffield and Barry Blaustein is riddled with humor – some stereotypical but lighthearted, nonetheless. This film isn’t trying to expose any hard truths just provide good natured ironic and very funny comedy. The funniest moments come when you least expect them like the scene’s in the My-T Sharp barber shop where Murphy and Hall play every character including the old white guy give them the ability to be completely versatile in this film.  

The only thing lacking from Coming to America is the true grittiness that New York has to offer. Only once scene features this with robber (Samuel L. Jackson) who has stolen from McDowell’s more than once. It would have been a better representation of New York especially during this time period. 

Overall, Coming to America is a classic comedy that delivers on all fronts. It’s one of those rare comedies that is so famously quotable and is a must see for any comedy fan. It may not be for everyone but it’s worth the watch. It’;s filled with so much charm and warm-hearted and just a delightful comedy. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall have such amazing chemistry and timing together in every role they play. If I were to rate Coming to America, I’d rate it a 4.5 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen Coming to America and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Coming to America is directed by John Landis is Rated R and has an 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Coming to America was released on June 26, 1988 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 57 minutes. Coming to America can be bought by online retailers such as iTunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.

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*I do not own these photos used in this article; all rights reserved to the copyright holder*

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