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Coming To America (DVD) Review
In the 1980s, Eddie Murphy manufactured a string of Hollywood blockbusters culminated in his 1988 comedy Coming To America. As far comedies go, this one's as good as it gets. Clever and witty, its hilarity only grows with time. Unlike most modern day comedies, it doesn’t rely on outlandish physical humor, fart jokes, or other toilet bowl humor for laughs. Instead, it creates a somewhat realistic plotline ripe with one-liners, eccentric characters, and perfect comedic delivery on the part of its cast. Headlined by Murphy, audiences will enjoy an all-star cast that includes such faces as Arsenio Hall, Louie Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, and many others. Inevitably, any objective viewer would have to rate Coming To America as one of the top five comedies of the decade.
The film follows the life of Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), heir to the royal throne of Zumunda, who, upon reaching the preordained age of marriage, is introduced to a woman bred from birth to be his wife. But, much to the chagrin of his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), Akeem raises an objection. After discussing the matter, the king agrees to delay the marriage while Akeem takes a trip abroad to “sow his wild oats”.
Desperate to avoid his arranged marriage and hoping to marry a woman he loves, Prince Akeem reveals his intentions to his servant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall). Semmi agrees to travel abroad and assist Akeem in finding a wife who can be respected for her intelligence as well as her beauty. Spinning a globe, Akeem’s finger lands on the world’s perfect destination for finding a queen – Queens, New York.
In Queens, Akeem and Semmi settle into a rundown ghetto apartment complex and set out to find as many women as possible. When their search is fruitless, an older man suggests they go to church and meet some “good girls”. It’s here that Akeem’s eye falls on Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley), daughter of Cleo McDowell (John Amos), founder of Queens’ most popular fast food establishment McDowell’s (which bares an uncanny resemblance to McDonald’s). Unfortunately, Lisa is dating Darryl Jenks, heir to his father’s hair supply business and the most eligible bachelor in town according to Cleo and Lisa’s sister Patrice (Allison Dean).
In an effort to get closer to Lisa, Akeem accepts a job at McDowell’s where fellow employee Maurice (Louie Anderson) fills him in on the bright future beheld by a McDowell’s employee. Forcing Semmi to work alongside him, Akeem and Semmi help foil a gunman (Samuel L. Jackson) who attempts to hold up the store. As Lisa and Akeem develop a relationship, her father voices his disapproval, viewing Akeem as nothing but a poor immigrant with no future.
When Semmi telegraphs King Joffer for more money, it prompts the King and his entourage to personally visit New York City in search of Akeem. Cleo does a complete one-eighty when he’s informed of Akeem’s identity, but King Joffer is insistent on his son’s arranged marriage.
An ingenious and utterly entertaining comedy, Coming To America ranks highly as one of Eddie Murphy’s best films, if not his best ever. Only Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours come close to dethroning Prince Akeem and his search for a worthy bride, but neither is quite on the same level with this film and its never-ending parade of hilarity. If you love to laugh, you can’t go wrong with Coming To America, one of the best comedies of the 1980s decade.
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