Murphy Landis in America
It's strange how over time you forget things, I remember Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America" as a fun family friendly comedy. But having re-watched it I'd forgotten about all the expletives and sexual references which make it a 15, which I suppose shouldn't be a shock seeing that was what Murphy was known for during the 80s. Despite this you have to say the fairytale fish out of water storyline has dated remarkably well as has the comedy especially with both Eddie Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall playing a variety of the movies more memorable characters. And as such "Coming to America" alongside "Trading Places" and the first "Beverly Hills Cop" is one of Eddie Murphy's better movies.
It's Prince Akeem's (Eddie Murphy - Beverly Hills Cop II) birthday and as the heir to the throne of Zamunda he is expected to marry the woman that his mother and father have picked for him. But Akeem has grown tired of not being allowed to do things for himself and so along with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) travel to America looking for true love. Wanting to find a woman who will like him for who he really is rather than for being royalty Akeem and Semmi get jobs working as cleaner in McDowell's fast food restaurant where he meets the lovely Lisa (Shari Headley). The trouble is that Lisa already has a boyfriend in Daryyl (Eriq La Salle - Biker Boyz) the heir to the Soul Glo business.
One of the strengths of "Coming to America" and part of the reason why it's still fun is that the storyline is well worked. It maybe a simple blend of fish out of water and fairytale as we watch Prince Akeem heading to America to find true love but it is enjoyable. And whilst you know that Akeem is going to end up with the woman he loves by the time the movie ends the journey is entertaining especially when you know at some point he is going to have to come clean and tell her that he is not only rich but also royalty. In a way the predictability of it works in its favour because it means that it can focus on delivering laughs rather than trying to find some new angle on an old idea, but also keeping the humour relative to the storyline.
But it is the comedy where "Coming to America" is at it's strongest and right from the start it scores one laugh after another. The amusing scenes of Prince Akeem being waited on hand and foot to the point that he has women to wash him in the bath is just hilarious and whilst probably a fantasy of Eddie Murphy's still is funny. And it doesn't stop there because pretty much every scene and every line of dialogue has a pay off be it the decision to head to Queens as what better place to find a queen through to the whole series of jokes about Daryll being the heir to the Soul Glo fortune. In a way it probably helps that with Murphy teamed up with Arsenio Hall the jokes are shared more equally as does the fact that in Akeem Murphy has to tone down his loud comedy and keep it simple, allowing others to deliver those expected loud expletive filled jokes.
Whilst it is true that others in the cast get the loud jokes the ingenuity of having Murphy and Hall play a variety of other characters especially those in the barbers allows them both to deliver their own brand of comedy. The scenes in the barbers shop where the men argue as to who was the best boxer and so on is just brilliant and you have to say that Murphy behind a layer of make up and prosthetics to play an old Jew is stunning. In a way it is because Murphy and Hall get to let go as they play other characters is what makes "Coming to America" so memorable as who can forget Murphy's hilarious performance as the singer in the band Sexual Chocolate or Arsenio Hall dressed as a woman as Akeem and Semmi look for a queen in various bars.
Whilst Murphy and Hall are the stars of "Coming to America" they are aided by an equally memorable supporting cast. Okay so Shari Headley is a little bit shaky as love interest Lisa but she is nice and John Amos as her father and owner of the McDonald rip-off McDowell restaurant is brilliant. As is James Earl Jones as Akeem's royal father especially when he is having the father - son chat about sleeping with his bathers. And who can forget Eriq La Salle as Darryl the heir to the Soul Glo business which delivers so many great jokes. In a way the performances are not remarkable but they are good and the combination of characters and comedy make them all memorable.
What this all boils down to is that "Coming to America" is one of those 80s comedies which is still as good as when it was originally released. The jokes are still funny as are the performances especially from Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall who take on various guises. And whilst the storyline is both simple and obvious it never once feels boring thanks to the brilliant writing.