Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of both new and classic movies. Learn some film history, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy like-minded works of the past. This entry recommends movies to watch after you see the Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America.
If we’re talking about the DNA of a movie like Coming 2 America, a lot of critics would argue that the sequel is a genetic clone of the original. And yes, there are a lot of attempts to repeat and call back to the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy in ways that’s a little too much of a rehash. Craig Brewer, who directed Coming 2 America, is an unabashed John Landis fan and therefore brought a lot of what he loved about Landis’ Coming to America into his own follow-up.
But the script, which is credited to Kenya Barris along with two of the original movie’s writers, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield (with a story by Blaustein, Sheffield, and Justin Kanew), has plenty of new beats. Not necessarily fresh ones, but some that are different enough that I’d like to focus on precursors to the sequel’s story specifically rather than just essentially doing a Movie DNA for the first Coming to America.
Below is a list of movies that includes acknowledged influences, obvious ancestors, and titles I was personally reminded of while watching Coming 2 America. I can’t promise that you’ll like any of them just because you like the Coming to America sequel, which is enjoyable for its particular cast and comedic flourishes, but you may at least appreciate them as relative specimens. Anyway, it’s fitting to recognize that even movies have complicated and discordant kinfolk.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
There is plenty to enjoy in Coming 2 America, but many critics and other viewers say you might as well just re-watch the original and then also watch this Netflix Original, which marked Craig Brewer’s first collaboration with Eddie Murphy. In Dolemite Is My Name, Murphy plays Black cinema icon Rudy Ray Moore, who was best known for creating and starring as the pimp character known as Dolemite. It’s a wilder film with better, more interesting performances from Murphy and the rest of the cast, especially Coming 2 America co-star Wesley Snipes, who steals all his scenes here, too.
What’s the most obvious Disney animated feature and subsequent live-action remake to mention when discussing Coming 2 America‘s family tree? The Lion King, of course. The movie is even meta-referenced in Coming 2 America reminding audiences that James Earl Jones, who plays King Jaffe Joffer, also voiced Mufasa in both versions. There’s also the matter of the plot involving a lost male heir to the throne of an African royal family.
But the live-action version of Aladdin came to mind a lot more than The Lion King did as I watched Coming 2 America. Much of the humor in the new movie is nothing like what you’d find from Disney, but there’s an aesthetic tone to Coming 2 America that felt like a live-action Disney fairytale movie, especially with the showstopping music sequences. Also, most notably, Aladdin and Coming 2 America both involve a male-focused monarchy that is ultimately changed to allow for a daughter to inherit the throne.
Black Panther (2018)
I’m surprised that I didn’t recommend the original Coming to America in my Movie DNA for Marvel’s Black Panther, but it probably seemed a silly connection to make at the time. This time, there’s no getting around linking the comic book movie to the comedy franchise. Not only are most critics name dropping the African-set superhero blockbuster when discussing Coming 2 America, but so have the cast and crew, including Eddie Murphy:
“It’s the only movie that’s… ‘Black Panther’ did it. The second movie that had Black kings and Black… The very first one is ‘Coming to America.’ And the third one is ‘Coming 2 America.’
Of course, there’s also the connection of Coming 2 America costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who won an Oscar for Black Panther, as well as direct references within the new comedy sequel alluding mostly to Marvel’s fictional African kingdom of Wakanda as a counterpart to Coming to America‘s fictional African kingdom of Zamunda. Here’s a funny little anecdote Brewer told to the San Francisco Chronicle:
“There were long conversations between me and Ruth Carter as to what’s Zamundan and what’s Wakandan. What’s the difference in costumes and what’s the difference in culture? And every once in a while I’d have to stop everybody and go, ‘Y’all, we are totally talking about two places that don’t exist. Let’s not get heated. We’re arguing about things that don’t exist.’”
Also, before he made Black Panther, filmmaker Ryan Coogler had an idea for a Coming to America sequel that would have been even more of a repeat. As Murphy told the New York Times:
“Ryan Coogler, before he directed ‘Black Panther,’ I meet with him and he says, I want to do a ‘Coming to America’ sequel. He had an idea for Michael B. Jordan to play my son and he would be looking for a wife. I was like, then the movie would be about the son, it’s not our characters, we already did that. It didn’t come together.”
And speaking of Michael B. Jordan, his character in Black Panther is comparable to Jermaine Fowler’s character in Coming 2 America in that both are young men who grew up relatively poor in America despite being a descendent of the royal family of Wakanda. Of course, Jordan’s Killmonger seeks to take over the country and becomes a villain in the process, whereas Fowler’s Lavelle is found and given the keys to the crown but he ultimately chooses not to inherit the throne.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Do I really think anyone who likes Coming 2 America should rush to watch this other sequel that’s similarly just appealing to nostalgic fans of the original? Not at all. Maybe there are some people who will enjoy both, but that’s not the point of including it. I just want to point out their commonality as late sequels to hit comedies about people marrying for love outside of their cultural tradition and expectations where the follow-up follows the legacy trend and focuses somewhat on that original couple’s offspring.
Get Low (2009)
The idea of King Jaffe Joffer hosting his own funeral before he is dead is played for laughs in Coming 2 America, but living funerals and wakes are not unheard of. They became well-known and more popular after the success of the nonfiction book Tuesdays with Morrie (turned into a TV movie in 1999), and the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie The Weather Man features one in which the main character’s father is thrown a eulogistic gala.
Both the 2007 comedy The Living Wake and 2009’s Get Low focus entirely on the idea of a living funeral. The latter is the better movie and is based on a true story of a hermit (portrayed by Robert Duvall) who planned and attended his own legendary funeral party in Tennessee in 1938. There’s no live narration from Morgan Freeman or mash-up performances from ’90s hip-hop and R&B all-stars, but Get Low does co-star a delightfully deadpan Bill Murray as the funeral director tasked with the arrangements.
King Ralph (1991)
I was going to include The Princess Diaries on this list as another movie representing the plot of an American discovering they’re royalty, but that was just too much more Disney to showcase here. King Ralph, which stars John Goodman as a crude Vegas lounge singer who becomes King of the United Kingdom when the rest of the royal family is killed in a freak photographic accident. It’s similar to the rags-to-riches slobs-versus-snobs subplot of Jermaine Fowler’s character in Coming 2 America discovering he’s the heir to the throne of Zumunda. Ralph is similarly expected to marry fellow royalty but instead falls for a more relatable lower-class woman and also ultimately rejects the ruling role he’s hereditarily due.