When Eddie Murphy made the original “Coming to America,” he was, almost without question, the funniest man in America.
Murphy was at the height of his fame, coming off “Beverly Hills Cop II” and the stand-up special “Raw.” Those were heady times. Arsenio Hall, Murphy’s longtime friend and co-star on “Coming to America,” recalls them sneaking off during filming to a Hollywood nightclub while still dressed as Prince Akeem and his loyal assistant Semmi. “We were crazy,” says Hall.
The ’80s, Murphy says, are “all blurry.”
“I was so young, this was all happening. When you’re young, you take everything for granted, how successful I was, ”says Murphy, speaking for Zoom with a rack of award statuettes behind him. “Now I don’t take anything for granted and I appreciate everything.”
Thirty-three years after “Coming to America”, Murphy and Hall have returned to Zamunda. The sequel, originally planned to hit theaters last year, was sold due to the pandemic by Paramount Pictures to Amazon, where it will begin airing on Friday.
It’s an unlikely coda to a blockbuster comedy, one that so completely belongs to the late ’80s that even the sequel tries to keep some of the spirit of that era. (Some notable R&B and hip-hop groups make cameos.) “Coming 2 America,” directed by Craig Brewer, reverses the plot of the fish out of water to bring Queens to Zamunda after Akeem learns he had a son (Jermaine Fowler) on his first visit to New York.
Some items have been updated. There is a plot of female empowerment; KiKi Layne plays Akeem’s daughter. At the barbershop, where Murphy and Hall also repeat their characters, the conversation bounces from Teslas to transgender people.
“We had a draft where they had MAGA caps and they were Republicans,” says Murphy. “It was fun, but it was like, uh, let’s not even go there.”
Instead, Murphy and his collaborators, including writers Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, and Kenya Barris, felt that the main appeal of “Coming to America” lay in its fairy-tale premise.
“This is the only movie I’ve made that has a cult following,” says Murphy. “We had completely forgotten about ‘Coming to America.’ So this movie took this life into culture. It became a cult movie. The lines of the film became a catchphrase. People drop the mic now. The first mic drop is Randy Watson from ‘Coming to America’ “.
“Coming to America” has played a unique role in culture since 1988. Real-life McDowell’s fast food restaurants, McDonald’s imitation from the movie, have appeared briefly in Los Angeles and Chicago. Beyoncé and Jay-Z once dressed up as movie characters for Halloween.
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