Coming to America is probably my favorite movie with a primarily African American cast. This was the second John Landis comedy starring Eddie Murphy in 5 years. Despite their eventual falling out, Murphy became an even bigger star in the process. In fact, there are many famous black actors that would become famous later on like Cuba Gooding Jr. or Samuel L. Jackson. Louis Anderson is the token white guy in the cast. Coming to America tells the story of African Prince Akeem who gets tired of his privileged life of royalty. Zamunda is a lavish fictional African nation with immense wealth and dance numbers choreographed by Paula Abdul.
James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair play the king and queen respectively. King Joffer wearing a lion pelt in one scene single handedly inspired their role in The Lion King. Akeem refuses his hilariously subservient queen to be in favor of finding true love in Queens, New York. He’s joined by his less than enthusiastic best friend Semmi. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall both play multiple characters for the first time. Akeem is funny because of his cheerful naiveté, but Murphy really goes over-the-top as a profane barber, clueless singer of Sexual Chocolate, and my personal favorite, the old Jewish man. The makeup is so good, you’ll barely recognize the latter.
Along with Semmi, Hall gets to play a boisterous reverend, an elderly barber, and an ugly girl in a particularly funny speed dating montage. As funny as Murphy is, everyone else is just as funny. It doesn’t have to be R rated, but the swearing and casual nudity doesn’t hurt. Akeem and Semmi get working class jobs at the McDowell’s restaurant that definitely isn’t McDonald’s. John Amos is the confident owner Cleo who has two daughters. Akeem falls for the lovely Lisa played by Shari Headley. They share a sweet romance despite his secret wealth and her obnoxious boyfriend/spokesman for Soul Glo getting in the way. When they start to fall in love, Murphy inadvertently makes Randolph and Mortimer from Trading Places rich again. When the lie is revealed, only true love can bring them together. Coming to America is a hilariously sincere royal fairytale in New York.
Followed by: Coming 2 America