Coming To America (1988)

With the highly anticipated Coming To America 2 releasing this week (both films are currently available on Prime Video) we take a look at where it all started, the people involved and the film itself.

Pampered Prince of Zamunda, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) grows weary of his royal lifestyle and journeys to America to find a potential bride – with hilarious consequences.

crazydiscostu film review coming to america eddie murphy arsenio hall

This represents the first film where Eddie Murphy plays multiple roles, a practice that become something of a trademark later in his career. This is also the first time Murphy and make-up artist Rick Baker would work together. They would go on to work on films such as The Nutty Professor, Life, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, and Norbit. This film also marks very strong character performances for both Murphy and Arsenio Hall.

It’s interesting to also note that Hall voiced the character Winston Zeddemore on The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series – with the Ghostbusters film role originally being written for Eddie Murphy.

Nile Rogers of Chic fame handles the music for this one and as expected does a wonderful job creating some iconic tunes which still hold cult value today.

Samuel L Jackson turns in an explosive profanity-laced performance which is short but ultimately sweet and makes for a fantastic glimpse into his future roles.

Director John Landis famously didn’t get along with Murphy (despite Murphy requesting Paramount hire him after working together on Trading Places) following a string of grievances and a physical altercation. Murphy vowed to never work with Landis again. The two later reconciled, and Murphy personally asked Landis to direct Beverly Hills Cop III.

Landis loved the film but always thought that the pacing was too slow and stated as much in 2015. He even went as far to request that Paramount let him release a directors cut but was denied on the grounds that the original cut was far too successful. Could we possibly see a fervent online petition to #RELEASETHELANDISCUT ?

The name of the fictional African country the main characters are from is called “Zamunda”. This name was taken from a Richard Pryor routine where he referred to a fictional African tribe of the same name and makes a satisfying tribute to the comedian.

crazydiscostu film review coming to america cover poster

It’s definitely a disability that I (along with many of us) can’t watch James Earl Jones on screen without the context of Darth Vader creeping in somewhere. It’s a testament to a great character but also a shame because Jones is such a strong actor – his portrayal of the king is no exception.

The film hit some controversy when columnist Art Buchwald alleged that Paramount Pictures stole his script idea and subsequently sued. Buchwald won the case and was awarded damages with Paramount settling for $900,000.

After the success of Coming To America CBS produced a pilot for a proposed weekly sitcom spinoff. It was televised on July 4, 1989, but went unsold.

This one is without a doubt a staple of the time period. It’s chock full of great performances and satisfying storytelling, alongside a nude scene within the first 5 minutes! With Coming To America 2 releasing this week it will be interesting to see if those involved can capture the magic of the first film 33 years later. Stay tuned as we’ll be dropping that review soon.


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