Dylan recommended I review the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy as a lead up to the release of Tower Heist. I’ve been wanting to tackle an entire series for a while, but wasn’t sure if you all would care to read a multi-week critique. Because there wasn’t time to conduct a proper poll, I’ve tweaked the idea. For the next few weeks, I’ll be showcasing movies featuring the stars of Tower Heist beginning, obviously, with Eddie Murphy.
Rose bearers tossing petals at your feet, attendants brushing your teeth and gargling for you, and bathers cleaning your royal penis. Pampering like this sounds like a sweet deal, but Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is bothered that he is twenty-one and has never tied his own shoes. And now, though he’s never met her, he must marry a bride (Vanessa Bell) his parents, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) and Queen Aoleon (Madge Sinclair), have chosen.
Akeem convinces his father that he must leave Zamunda for America to sow his royal oats. The Prince and his servant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), arrive in Queens where they live and work as paupers so Akeem can meet an independent woman who will love him, and not his title. He finds a prospect in Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) and a rival in her boyfriend, Darryl (Eriq La Salle), the Prince of Soul Glo.
While Murphy’s penchant for playing multiple roles is a tired gimmick now, Coming to America is the film where he first tested the concept with hilarious results. The makeup effects are quite good, and garnered Rick Baker his fourth Oscar nomination. Murphy’s old Jewish man, Saul, is even more convincing than his role as the African prince.
Murphy and Hall each portray four characters, but the film is still chock full of familiar faces like Frankie Faison, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Louie Anderson and John Amos. Amos is a riot as Cleo McDowell, whose McDowell’s restaurant has no similarity to McDonald’s whatsoever. Cuba Gooding Jr. pops in for his first big screen role as a silent barbershop customer. My absolute favorite appearance is that of Samuel L. Jackson, whose character is as loud and violent as his characters are now. Murphy and director John Landis even throw in an homage to their previous collaboration, Trading Places, by having Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy reprise their roles.
The Duke Brothers’ cameos and the multiple Murphy roles are so indulgent. These and other moments are entirely unwarranted; they drag out the run time, have little to no bearing on the plot or its resolution…but they’re still pretty damned funny, which is a must in a comedy.
One thing noticeably absent from Coming to America is Eddie Murphy’s trademark laugh. His seriousness, and I use the term loosely, as Akeem adds to the sincerity of his quest. The budding romance between Akeem and Lisa doesn’t feel forced thanks to exemplary writing and direction. Their courtship is no more unbelievable than any other comedy courtship from the 80s.
Coming to America is still nearly as funny as my teenaged self remembers thanks to a well-scripted story and the comedic genius of Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy. Though many of us may not care for Murphy’s more recent, kid-friendly films, there’s no denying that the days when he played a prince were when he reigned as a king of comedy.