The 1980s seem to have come back in an odder way than we could have ever imagined. In 2017, we have a President who is a former reality TV star. In the 1980s, we had a President who was a former actor. Today, we have social media running our lives and giving us innumerable ways to compete with each other. In the 1980s, MTV had us under its thumb. It made us compete with one other about being the first to see the new media known as music videos. And now, in 2017, there's talk of Eddie Murphy writing and actually making a sequel to 1988's wildly successful Coming to America, which, like the first movie, will be released by Paramount Pictures.
Today's cinematic landscape is mired in nostalgia. For most of the 1990s and 2000s, we had films that looked back fondly (and not so fondly) at the go-go times of the 1970s. Today, you can barely watch a film without some reference to the 1980s and, now, even the 1990s. If movies represent the dominate ideas of the culture they serve, then our society is one that is constantly looking back as we timidly look toward the future.
Which brings us quite nicely to this talk of Eddie Murphy and Coming to America 2. First of all, there's no guarantee that this project is even going to happen. All we are basing our discussions (and to a large degree, THIS story) on is a Tweet. Yup. Those disposable 140 character things that people seem to make irrationally and then take down in equally as irrational a state.
Not too long ago, Eddie Murphy dropped a tweet that simply said: Coming to America sequel? Now supposedly Eddie Murphy doesn't even tweet. This may explain why the post was also removed. However, it was later confirmed that Murphy is indeed writing this new property. On the face of it this might seem like a good idea. However, amidst all the nostalgia the big question should be: Is there really an audience for this project?
Other questions we could ask are is Eddie Murphy still a major star? Can he make movies with humans that will actually make money like the original Coming to America? His last live action film that came the closest to making $100 million was Norbit. That was nearly 10 years ago!! (To be fair, Tower Heist came close with nearly $80 million). However, the first Coming to America came out 30 years ago. On a budget of $28 million it grossed $288 million worldwide. It has been awhile since a movie starring this illustrious actor has seen those numbers. I guess I am wondering if Eddie Murphy's name still carries weight with enough moviegoers for this sequel to make sense?
Lets examine this by what Coming to America has going for it. First of all, it's a great movie. Not just a great comedy. A great movie. Period. The story of Prince Akeem (Murphy) coming to America to find his queen is the stuff of legend. At the same time, this movie is so much more than that. It is filled with incredible characters, many of which were also done (with incredible make-up effects) by Eddie Murphy and newcomer Arsenio Hall. Other standouts include James Earl Jones as Prince Akeem's father, John Amos as Cleo McDowell, Eriq La Salle at his 1980s best, and this movie even had Cuba Gooding, Jr. as an extra.
On top that of that it really pushed comedy. It didn't play it safe. It had Murphy and Hall playing multiple characters. Men, women, people of different races, etc. You name it these guys threw it into the film. That gave the original Coming to America an electricity. There was a vibrancy about it that still makes the film imminently watchable. After that, Murphy's career started to take an odd turn. Films like Harlem Nights, Another 48 Hrs. an Beverly Hills Cop 3 felt like he was trying to recapture something (ie. play it safe), rather than really expand on the comedy he had help pioneer. Then came a string of films from The Nutty Professor and Doctor Doolittle franchises. Sure, there were occasional flashes of the old Eddie Murphy brilliance with films like Bowfinger and Dreamgirls, but for all intents and purposes, the raw comedian we had grown to love was gone.
On the flip side, the very idea of a Coming to America sequel gives us just an many questions that could could be negatives. At the core of this project, the big question seems to be what is the point of continuing on with the franchise? If it was able to remain dormant for 30 years, without fans clamoring to know more about the whereabouts of Prince Akeem and his new Queen, why revisit it now? It seems that Murphy might even be better suited creating a new project/franchise, that could show he can still hang in today's internet era.
Furthermore, what would this story be about? Would we see Prince Akeem 30 years later living in his kingdom? Do he and his wife get divorced and he has to return to Queens? Is Akeem now trying to marry his son (possibly played by Kevin Hart?) off to some young lady? Whatever the scenario is, why couldn't it be another movie that is not a sequel to Coming to America? I say that because simply using this title feels like a cash grab that is not going to yield much cash. Sure, people will remember that film but they're also going to remember that that film was layered with closure. All a sequel might do is make people simply say, "Who cares?"
This article isn't meant to be a rip on Eddie Murphy. He is a fine actor who has provided (and continues to provide) many generations with laughter and happiness. At the same time, he hasn't aged well. And this probably isn't his fault. The brilliant radio host, Dan LeBetard, was talking about this recently regarding Dave Chapelle. He said that comedians don't seem to have long shelf lives. It is as though many are at their best from their 20s and 30s, and after that, if they have had any sort of large scale success, they tend to mellow. They lose the hunger.
In many ways, Eddie Murphy has defied that. Sure, many of his more recent movies have left a lot to be desired. However, you can't deny the growth he displayed earlier in films like Boomerang and A Vampire in Brooklyn. He would later show this in Dreamgirls, and even more recently in Mr. Church. The fact that studios and moviegoers are still interested in him also bodes well.
So why am I so down on a Coming to America sequel, you ask? Quite frankly, it just doesn't seem to make any sense. Some of the people around Eddie Murphy might even feel the same way. However, this doesn't mean that it's not gonna happen. The title of the film is still very recognizable. Coming to America 2 should at least have that for the opening weekend. Many of the characters still referenced by modern comics and on sketch shows like Key and Peele. There is a chance that, as an Eddie Murphy vehicle, he can pull of something pretty stupendous with Coming to America 2. Sadly, the adds are very long and, like the long talked about version of Ghostbusters that we finally got, we all may wonder if it was really worth the wait.