How ‘Coming 2 America’ revives the best parts of the original

The original “Coming to America” was an absolute masterpiece, leaning into so many elements of gritty 1980s New York City and especially the less glamorous side of outer borough life in Queens. It also created an entire universe in Zamunda, which was full of over-the-top royal traditions. And both lands were filled with some of the most outrageously funny characters and bits in comedy history.

While the sequel, “Coming 2 America” (out now on Amazon Prime), introduces new blood like Tracy Morgan as Uncle Reem and Leslie Jones as Prince Akeem’s baby mama, it’s more of a nostalgic rehash of the first flick.

Like a 30-plus reunion, viewers get to see how some of the zaniest characters have made it into the 21st century, for better or for worse. While some notables have been left in the dust — ahem, Soul Glo heir Darryl Jenks and Patrice McDowell — here is how “Coming 2 America” brings back some of the greatest hits. Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Zamundan traditions

Zamundan loyalists may be surprised by how many American celebrities, including En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa, have made their way to the posh African kingdom. But numerous royal customs remain intact, including the orally skilled royal bathers, the rose-petal girls and the stoic royal servant Oha, who still lends his legendary pipes to every official ceremony.

St. John’s basketball

In the 1980s, the real king of Queens was the St. John’s hoops team. In the original, Prince Akeem, the McDowell sisters and Soul Glo heir Darryl Jenks go to a St. John’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden, where Akeem famously stands up and cheers at halftime after Patrice McDowell grabs his crown jewels. He then runs into a “loyal citizen of Zamunda” who is working at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Of course, when the original was released in 1988, the Red Storm were the Redmen and still in the days of Big East glory. In the latest flick, the squad does not make an appearance on the court, but the sequel still pays homage to the storied hoops program and the Thunderbird, its current mascot. Prince Akeem’s illegitimate son, Lavelle, is making a living as a street-savvy hustler scalping tickets to St. John’s games outside of MSG.

Duke & Duke

Any “Coming to America” continuation requires a cameo from Mortimer and Randolph Duke from “Trading Places.” Unfortunately, actors Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy, who played the stuffy rich owners of the firm Duke & Duke, have long been dead. They could’ve gone the hologram route. Instead, in a nod to Murphy’s iconic role as Billy Ray Valentine, Akeem’s son interviews at the firm with a pretentious Duke family scion played by Colin Jost. And we see a portrait of Hollywood’s favorite commodities brokers.

The barber shop

The My-T-Sharp crew are back and still spitting razor-sharp barbs. They are also still not politically correct, calling Akeem and Semmi “Kunta Kinte and Ebola.” But they have evolved somewhat. Clarence, played by Murphy, mentions he has a transgender family member. But they continue their fiery arguments about boxing, this time debating Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather instead of Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Clay.

The clothes

A more proper fashion moment would have been bringing back Lisa’s beautiful shearling toggle coat that she wore during her date with Akeem, but alas, it must be in Cleo McDowell’s closet in Jamaica Estates. Who needs a shearling in Zamunda? However, Akeem’s famous Mets varsity jacket makes a cameo. When he arrives back in the Big Apple to find his son, he changes out of his elaborate clothing and into the blue and orange jacket complete with all the gaudy pins to “blend in” with the rest of the Big Apple denizens.

The wildlife

Remember Babar, the baby elephant who Prince Akeem affectionately greets while out on a walk with his father, King Jaffe Joffer? Well, Babar is all grown up and, like Akeem, a father now. The pair are still friends, and the pachyderm still roams the grounds near the palace.

The pride of Jackson Heights

“Now you may know him as Joe the Policeman on the ‘What’s Going Down’ episode of ‘That’s My Mama.’” Yes, Jackson Height’s own Mr. Randy Watson, played by Murphy, seems to be back on tour. He’s puffier in the face and in the middle, most likely due to the hard living and groupies from the Miss Black Awareness Pageant but what can you say? That boy’s good. And still terrible. He and Sexual Chocolate are back covering another classic tune in the finale. Only this time, he takes his talents to Zamunda.

The preacher

Reverend Brown, a close personal friend to McDowell’s proprietor Cleo McDowell, was known for giving the fieriest sermons on Queens Boulevard. In 2021, Reverend Brown is still preaching, albeit in less prestigious places than the Miss Black Awareness pageant. He finds himself in a seedy storefront of a “church.” But in a Hollywood miracle, he ends up officiating the most important wedding in modern Zamundan history. Can I get an amen?


Louie Anderson was brilliant as Maurice, a McDowell’s worker who set his aspirations very high: assistant manager. “That’s when the big bucks start rolling in,” he said. It seems he’s achieved his dream. He helps Cleo McDowell run the Zamunda branch of McDowell’s, where workers wear African-inspired uniforms infused with McDowell’s signature red tartan.

The beats

In a surprise musical performance, twins Fresh Peaches and Sugar Cube — who tried to woo both Semmi and Prince Akeem with their beats, “My name is Peaches and I’m the best. All the DJs want to feel my breasts” — return to the stage alongside Randy Watson. They don’t have new bars to drop but they sound and look as fresh as ever.

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