On Its 30th Birthday & With a Sequel in Development: 6 Reasons to Revisit 'Coming to America'
Photo Credit: "Coming to America"
Film

On Its 30th Birthday & With a Sequel in Development: 6 Reasons to Revisit 'Coming to America'

Many of you have probably heard/read the rumor that Eddie Murphy is working on a sequel to “Coming to America,” released June 29, 1988. They began in 2017 when Murphy tweeted the image below of Vanessa Bell Calloway in character with the caption, “Coming to America sequel?”

Twitter
Twitter

The tweet and Eddie’s Twitter account were soon deleted, but it was enough to excite fans and inspire several articles speculating on the possibility.

TMZ would later report that their source confirmed that Murphy is indeed working on a “Coming to America” sequel; but this was coming from TMZ, and there was no confirmation from Murphy or the studio. However TMZ has broken many stories in the past that were eventually confirmed as fact.

And then about a month later, it was announced that Paramount, the studio behind the hit 1988 original, had hired Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield (who both wrote the screenplay for the original) to script a “Coming to America” sequel.

That news later changed, as Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) were attached to the project.

A year and change later and we’ve still no word on story at these early stages of development; also it’s not said whether Eddie Murphy will return to star, or if, as some of you suggested, the story instead focuses on the son of Prince Akeem and Lisa McDowell, who got married to the cheers of Zamundans at the end of the 1998 film.

For her part, Vanessa Bell Calloway – who appeared in the original as Imani Izzi (Prince Akeem’s arranged wife-to-be) – is most certainly interested in returning for a sequel, telling TMZ that she’s “ready to go.”

The original film was a smash for Paramount; made for under $40 million, it grossed over $288 million worldwide, $128 million in the States alone. It’s a wonder that a sequel didn’t happen soon after, to capitalize on the momentum.

In the meantime, courtesy of Nijla Mumin below, let’s revisit the original classic comedy.


When thinking of early Eddie Murphy films, there are probably many that come to mind, but “Coming to America” is bound to be one of the first. Directed by John Landis, the 1988 film is a comedy about a prince from a fictional African kingdom who ventures to America to find a wife. It’s inaccurate in many ways, but hilarious in plenty of others. The film saw Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall at their comedic prime, taking on wildly different characters in a Queens, New York setting that served as a backdrop for the “culture shock” that their newcomers to the country encounter.

No matter how many times you’ve seen the film, there are certain moments that bring uncontrollable laughter. Here are a few:

1 — Soul Glo: This fictional hair product became synonymous with the infamous Jheri curl and with the sinister allure of Darryl (played by Eriq La Salle), whose family owns the brand. In Akeem (Murphy) and Semmi’s (Hall) introduction to Queens, they see a commercial for Soul Glo in which black people are struck by animated thunderbolts, delivering an illustrious sheen and wetness to their hair. Swinging their moist locks from side to side, a disastrously high-pitched vocal sings: “Just let your soul glow/ just let it shine through / put it on so silky smooth.” More hilarious than the actual commercial is a scene where Darryl and his family—all equipped with Jheri curls—get up from sitting on a couch and leave three large oil stains on it. The camera stays on the Jheri curl stains for a good moment, and no one can deny the hilarity.

2 — “She’s your queen to be”: With no instrumental accompaniment, this song is delivered at the highest pitch known to man by the adorable actor Paul Bates. With lyrics like: “She’s your queen to be/ A vision of perfection / An object of affection / To quench your royal fire,” the song was imitated in living rooms for years to come, and probably made its ways into more than a few mock marriage proposals.

3 — “What is that, velvet?!?”: A classic line from Saul, one of Eddie Murphy’s many elderly characters, when he feels real fur for the first time on the coat of the newly-arrived Akeem. With his thick Queens lisp and powdery face, he sits in a barbershop debating everything from boxing to the civil rights movement with the other men, providing Hakeem and Semmi with hilarious insight into the land they’ve just entered.

4 — “The Greatest Love of All”: Randy Watson and his band, aptly named Sexual Chocolate, perform to an unenthused crowd at a black awareness rally. As one of Murphy’s comic personalities, the singer plows through this Whitney Houston classic in a Jheri curl of his own and a tight, ruffled sky blue suit. Applause is scarce and scattered as he drops the microphone and walks off-stage. In the audience, one of the elderly men from the barbershop comments, “That boy good!” Another responds: “Yeah, good and terrible.” That pretty much sums it up.

5 — That dance scene: Feather headdresses, drums, flips and bodies flying through the air make this scene one of the best in the film. Choreographed by Paula Abdul, it comes suddenly, without expectation and gives the viewer a vibrant introduction into the fictional world “Coming to America” seeks to create. Shot wide, the precision of the choreography becomes grand and entrancing. When the film came out on VHS, it was definitely a “watch again” rewind moment.

6 — The wedding: No matter how many times you watch this, Lisa’s (played by Shari Headley) reemergence into the film during the final wedding scene is still one of the best surprises, after she rejects Akeem’s wedding proposal in a prior sequence. When Akeem pulls back the bride’s veil and she’s revealed in an elaborate pink wedding gown, a certain joy is felt. Shots of Lisa’s father, Cleo (played by John Amos), standing on the throne with King Jaffe Joffer (played by James Earl Jones), make Akeem and Lisa’s union all the more satisfying. Cultural and familial conflicts have all been resolved and we are excited for Lisa’s acceptance of Akeem’s royal lineage. What better ending to a film like this?

Are you laughing yet? Or better yet, just remembering? These are some of the standout moments in “Coming to America.” What scenes, moments, or characters still make you laugh? And how do you feel about a sequel?

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