Contemporary Romance — Movie Review
Coming to America
There is a Fine Line Between Love and Nausea
“My son works!?” This line, delivered in the outraged, booming voice of Mufasa—that is to say, James Earl Jones—is a personal favorite from this hilarious film. A wild, riotous comedic romance that starts in the fictional African Kingdom of Zamunda, Coming to America is all about one Crown Prince (Akeem Joffer, as played by Eddie Murphy) and his quest to find true love. Along the way, he is accompanied by his trusted friend and assistant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall).
Raised in the isolation and splendor of his family’s castle estate, Akeem is an aristocrat who wants for nothing. Educated, athletic, and fabulously wealthy, the only thing Akeem lacks is a suitable bride. Not to worry though, his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), has made all the arrangements to provide Akeem with a suitable bride.
There’s just one problem: Akeem doesn’t want a wife who’s been trained since birth to fulfill his every command, wish, and desire. Though his intended bride is beautiful, devoted, and quite willing to follow his orders like the best trained dog, our enterprising young prince wants none of that. Instead, his heart is set on finding a woman with a mind of her own. He wants a woman who will think for herself, who will challenge him, and who will love him for who he is rather than for the princely position he occupies.
With a map in hand and Semmi at his side, Akeem decides that America is the place to search for the bride of his dreams. And so, on a whim, he selects the Queens borough of New York City and is soon making himself at home in a rat-infested building to begin his quest. As fans of Murphy might expect, absolute hilarity soon ensues.
In America, of course, we find Akeem’s love interest in Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley). The daughter of Cleo McDowell (John Amos), Lisa is a middle class American girl who isn’t exactly looking for love, but also hasn’t quite reconciled herself to a life with the rich, obnoxious Darryl Jenks (Eriq La Salle) who is favored by her father on account of his family’s accrued wealth. Headley delivers her role with style, grace, and a number of humorous interactions with her sister, Patrice (Allison Dean).
Though the premise of Coming to America is not a new one, Murphy and the supporting cast bring a fresh take to the tried and true theme of a royal seeking true love amidst the common folk. This film also marks the first time Murphy (and Arsenio Hall) played multiple characters, a feature that became something of a hallmark in his later films, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable to see the young actors inhabit multiple characters (particularly Hall’s brief double role in the bar scene).
The cinematography is smooth, with top-notch work from the cameramen, and scenes transition well throughout the film so you aren’t left with any jarring jumps or time lapses. The soundtrack composed by Nile Rodgers is also quite befitting of the film, starting in Africa and making its way to 80s America, and it lends itself perfectly to the comedic nature of the film. All in all, Coming to America is a solid romantic comedy and well worth the 1:57 runtime, so make some popcorn and enjoy!