Coming to America (1988)


run time: 116 mins
rated: 18A
considered: Comedy, Drama, Romance
starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Eriq La Salle, Louie Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Dean, Jake Steinfeld

movie summary: Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is the heir to the throne of Zamunda with anything he could ever want at his fingertips except one thing, true love. On the eve of his arranged wedding to a complete stranger, Akeem begs his parents to postpone the ceremony and let him go out and explore the world before he settles down. With his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) by his side, Akeem wants to go to America to find a girl to fall in love with. They flip a quarter to help them choose between Los Angeles and New York, with the Big Apple being the winner. The city map scale when Akeem’s eyes light up at the thought of finding the perfect woman in Queens, a suburb of New York City. They pack the royal baggage and fly off to America.

In an attempt to come across as two regular African guys, the pair take a cab to the poorest part of Queens, where their gold luggage gets stolen. They rent the dirtiest apartment imaginable, where there’s still a chalk line on the kitchen floor where the previous tenant was murdered. After a few nights, the two guys go out on several dates with no real potentials out of the bunch. On the way back to their apartment, they run into Clarence (Eddie Murphy), the barber going to a church fundraiser and agree to tag along.

Akeem and Semmi are bored out of their minds at the church until Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) comes up on the stage to promote her dad’s business, McDowell’s fast food restaurant. Akeem is instantly attracted to Lisa; she is beautiful, smart, charming, and is exactly what he is looking for in a bride. He donates several thousands of dollars to her cause before going down to the restaurant the next day. Cleo McDowell (John Amos) is the owner who offers Akeem and Semmi a job at his restaurant. The pair is soon mopping floors, cleaning toilets, washing windows, and taking out the trash, while Akeem tries his best to get to know Lisa.

Weeks go by when Semmi runs out of patience and begs Akeem to make his move on Lisa because he can’t stand living the poor life anymore. Akeem preaches the time is not right since Lisa is dating Darryl (Eriq La Salle), who is the heir to a famous hair spray company. He promises everything will be over soon and that they will head back to Zamunda with Lisa. Semi gets tired of hearing Akeem’s promises, sending a message requesting $500,000 from King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones). The royal family are shocked to get such a request to travel to New York to find out what is going on with Akeem and Semmi. When the King and Queen arrive safely and notify Semmi they have arrived, the drama really picks up from there.

Akeem is about to seal the deal with Lisa, who thinks he’s a goat herder when he notices his father is in town, so he rushes Lisa home. Cleo has always disapproved of Akeem, but after meeting the King, he suddenly has a heart change and wants his daughter to be with him. Everyone meets at the McDowell residence, when Lisa’s sister Patrice (Allison Dean) figures out the man she has been with, Semmi, is not the Prince but just a servant. Cleo insists Lisa and Akeem be together, but the King steps in and tells Lisa that Akeem is just in town to “sow his royal oats,” which forces her to run out of the house in tears. Akeem chases her down into the subway, where he begs her to reconsider their potential relationship. She can’t believe he wasn’t honest with her, gives him back the diamond earrings he got her and walks out of his life.

Heartbroken and depressed, Akeem, along with the royal family pack, heads back to Zamunda, where the arranged marriage awaits all of them.


my thoughts: Eddie Murphy will always be fondly remembered for all the success he had during the 1980s. His work ranged from best-selling stand-up comedy albums to action-packed blockbuster franchises like Beverly Hill Cop and 48 Hours. One of his other popular and famous roles aside from Trading Places was Prince Akeem from Zamunda and best friend Semmi, played by Arsenio Hall.

These two guys are so funny together and share amazing on-screen chemistry. They play several characters throughout the film but steal the show as Akeem and Semmi. Pampered throughout their whole life, the pair has a hilarious time adjusting to America’s poor life. Semmi complains the whole movie while Akeem just brushes it off like he knows suffering builds character. The supporting cast lead by John Amos is equality funny with his McDonald’s rip-off restaurant and Eric La Salle’s Soul-Glo hair spray company. Murphy and Hall also play three crazy barbers who run a shop in the apartment building where they live. If anyone ever stops by for a hair cut, they will have to listen to these old men debate who the best boxers were. The best part of the entire movie is when Akeem takes away Semmi’s pocket change and gives it to two homeless guys, who happen to be Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) Duke from Trading Places. Their reaction to getting a whole bag of money is priceless, and if you haven’t seen Trading Places, you won’t get the joke, so go watch that movie after reading this.

The 1980s provided audiences with many classic comedies that are still watched today; coming to America is one of those films that will be treasured today and for years to come. By far one of Eddie Murphy’s greatest roles, that is a must-watch for anyone looking to burst out laughing for two hours.

my star rating: 8 out of 10

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