Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, others reprise their roles
The sequel to “Coming to America” is coming straight to viewers, without theaters.
The coronavirus-pandemic age has necessitated many changes in studios’ plans, since so many showplaces remain closed under the edicts of their respective state governments. Some movies are waiting it out — very notably including Daniel Craig’s final James Bond adventure, “No Time to Die,” now planned to debut in October — but others have taken the streaming route, initiated a year ago when such features as “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” moved to such platforms much sooner than they normally would have.
Disney’s live-action “Mulan” and the Tom Hanks-starring “Greyhound” were among the first major attractions to “open” in North America on streaming services instead of in theaters. Also, Warner Bros. controversially decided to debut “Wonder Woman 1984” plus its 2021 movie lineup on HBO Max at the same time as in whatever theaters are open to accommodate the titles.
Another prominent film intended to open theatrically at Christmas is having a streaming premiere instead. Some 33 years after the original comedy, Eddie Murphy’s sequel “Coming 2 America” becomes available on Amazon starting Friday, March 5 … and unlike many pictures that have gone straight to streaming during the past year, it has multiple points of familiarity likely to make Paramount Pictures’ deal with Amazon on it a smart move.
Of course, there is Murphy himself, still a popular star though his credits have been fewer recently — and with his cred re-energized by the praise he received for 2019’s “Dolemite Is My Name” (directed by Craig Brewer, with whom he reunited on “Coming 2 America”). Also, “Coming to America” writers Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield are back for the follow-up, joined by “black-ish” mentor Kenya Barris in devising the new script.
Besides Murphy being back as Prince Akeem (and other parts he played while heavily disguised), Arsenio Hall returns as the royal’s friend and aide Semmi (and additional characters as well). James Earl Jones, Shari Headley, John Amos and Vanessa Bell Calloway reprise their roles, too … as does Paul Bates, who was a show-stopper the first time as a servant who made announcements by singing them a capella.
Newcomers to the cast include Murphy’s daughter Bella as one of Akeem’s offspring, and comic Jermaine Fowler as the son Akeem suddenly discovers he has, prompting the elder man’s return to the U.S. Also among notable additions are Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Wesley Snipes and Kiki Layne.
It remains to be seen whether the streaming performance of “Coming 2 America” meets the promise it had when it was aimed toward a theatrical release. However, in terms of what it has been able to control, it appears to have all of its bases covered.