Coming to America (1988)
March 31, 2016 12:21 PM - Subscribe

An African prince goes to Queens, New York City to find a wife whom he can respect for her intelligence and will.

NYTimes: ''Coming to America'' comes to life fitfully when it turns rude and raw, or when Mr. Murphy and Mr. Hall are allowed to throw themselves into the sort of sketch material that made Mr. Murphy a star on television.

WaPo: "Coming to America" isn't as aggressively awful as the "Cop" films or "The Golden Child," but at least in those films there was something to react to. In making "Coming to America," Murphy seems to have set his sights on the lowest prize imaginable. He aspires to blandness.

Slant: Revisiting Coming to America as a critic, much of the humor that helped to make it the third highest-grossing movie at the U.S. box office in '88 still holds up. From Soul Glo to “Sexual Chocolate!” to McDowell's, Murphy and his team managed to strike a balance of relatively edgy humor and charming, if at times slightly formulaic, romance. Revisiting it as a Ghanaian, that satisfaction of seeing the on-screen portrayals of Africans who weren't corrupt, impoverished, or dying of AIDS remains. Of course, Prince Akeem's Zamunda, with its palm trees and turreted castles and ridiculous excess, is an outlandish fiction, but for an African, this deliberately positive vision still feels like a rebuke to so many negative cinematic representations of the African continent.

It's hard to tell if a comedy like Coming to America could be made today. A few years ago, there was talk of a remake starring Martin Lawrence as a Queens native who finds out he's heir to an African throne. Thankfully, the project seems to have fizzled. What made Coming to America distinct was the way it chose to use and subvert stereotypes, depicting Zamunda as a luxurious paradise and choosing Queens in mid December, rather than somewhere like Los Angeles, as its polar opposite. The movie confronted perceptions of where wealth and education are supposed to reside.

When Paramount Withheld 'Coming to America' From Film Critics, Worried About Box Office, Not Knowing What They Had...


Soul Glo

Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate
posted by MoonOrb (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of those "better than it sounds" movies.

Also, all the different disguises Murphy and Hall are in is quite a thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 PM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think this might be my family's most quoted movie. So much good stuff. "When you think of garbage, think of Akeem!"
posted by silverstatue at 7:13 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

That WaPo review just mystifies me. Hinson didn't like Beverly HIlls Cop or this movie but thought Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was good? Eh, what does he know from funny, the bastard?

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this one. It's just so quotable.

Damn shame what they did to that dog.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:15 PM on March 31, 2016

Let me tell you something once and for all. Rocky Marciano was good, but compared to Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano ain't shit.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:53 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

At least three times a week in my household one of us responds "Whatever you like" when we're asked what we'd like to do or eat.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:02 PM on March 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Let me tell you something once and for all. Rocky Marciano was good, but compared to Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano ain't shit.

He beat Joe Louis's ass.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:04 PM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a secret.

I worship the devil!
posted by rewil at 9:14 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

He beat Joe Louis's ass.

That's right, he did whup Joe Lewis' ass.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:46 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Joe Louis was 76 years old tho
posted by MoonOrb at 12:09 PM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is one of my favorite Murphy movies, hands down, and probably makes my Top 20 of best 80s comedies list, too.

First, we have the very counter-cultural expectations of an African nation which exists like an Eden. Contrast this against previous cinematic films which are either focused on the white person experience in Africa or at worse, on the dysfunctional nature of African regimes in the time period, and it's a very big finger to what I think a lot of the world saw in Africa at the time (or even now). It's a Wakanda-ish like place, minus the high tech.

Second, Murphy's character is simply so sincere and genuine and I think he doesn't quite get as much praise as he should for the acting involved. The scene in the subway when he hands the old woman the diamond earrings is priceless. Best supprting absolutely goes to Arsenio Hall, who shines, but never outshines Murphy's character.

Third, the little moments. The film is full of little moments, such as the barber shop or Akeem running into his country's people at the basketball game. His fish out of water is fantastic, especially for an actor who often plays characters who are almost always in water, so to speak.

Fourth, the shout out to Trading Places with the brothers. "Mortimer, we're back!" OMG, one of my all time favorite cameo/in-universe references. There was absolutely no reason to do it, but they did, and won my love forever.

Fifth, hey, it's Samuel Jackson...cussing. IT ALL BEGINS HERE.

Sixth, the cast. It's full of greats and people just getting their start on.
posted by Atreides at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Joe Louis had to come out of retirement, he was 137 years old.

This movie is one of our post-Christmas holiday traditions. We usually watch Trading Places, and follow it with Coming to America.

Fun Fact: James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair played King and Queen in both this movie and The Lion King.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:00 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of my best friends often tweets/FBs/texts "It is a beautiful day in Zamunda" in the morning. Never gets old, never fails to put a smile on my face.

Also the swerve at the finish is rather sweet. I mean, we all probably saw it coming, but it was sweet.
posted by aureliobuendia at 11:43 AM on April 5, 2016

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