In 1988, American top actors Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones and Shari Headley, among others, came together in what later became one of the greatest movie projects from Hollywood.
The team stars in a hyper comedy film Coming To America, a production directed by John Landis. The film centres on an African prince, Akeem, a character played by Murphy. Following traditions in their land, Zamunda, the prince is forced to marry a woman he has never seen.
But as a 21-year-old and feeling like a representation of a new age, Prince Akeem is determined to break the tradition and refuses to honour the arranged marriage. He instead goes to United States of America in search of a woman he can love and marry.
Thirty years later, Murphy and company have reunited on a sequel for the 1988 blockbuster in a production titled Coming 2 America.
This time around, Craig Brewer assumes the directorial role in a production which has seen the introduction of other lead characters such as Kiki Layne who stars as Meeka a princess and Jermaine Fowler, who plays Lavelle, King Akeem’s estranged son.
There is still space for return roles for Hollywood legend John Amos who continues with his role as Cleo McDowell and Leslie Jones who stars as Lavelle’s mother. Wesley Snipes also joins the cast and he takes the role of General Izzi.
The storyline itself focuses on Zamunda’s royal castle whereby Prince Akeem, Murphy, is forced to travel to New York in a quest to search for his long-lost son Lavelle and bring him back to Zamunda as his heir to the throne.
The action of King Akeem does not please many quarters, especially Princess Meeka who throughout her life has trained and positioned herself as the heir-apparent to her father’s throne. The arrival of Lavelle in the castle gives rise to a silent battle between the two.
Enjoying the support of her mother Lisa McDowell, played by Headley, Meeka still believes Lavelle will chicken out of the race by failing to fulfil some of the traditional rituals that will see him being endorsed as a prince and legit heir to the throne.
The twists and turns in the comical narrative rumble on till Prince Lavelle stuns everyone when he refuses to commit himself to a pre-arranged wedding to the daughter of General Izzi, Bapoto, but instead falls for his royal groomer Mirembe, a role played by South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha.
Since the movie premiered on March 5, there has been sustained hype the world over. The fever of the production has not sparred Malawi either. There has been a rush by movie lovers trying to be among the first to sample the film.
As expected, there have been various reactions on the production with some critics expressing their disappointment while others have lauded the effort. Last Friday, the film was shown for the first time at a local entertainment joint, Winehouse in Namiwawa, Blantyre.
Publicist of the place Emmanuel Maliro, himself a respected actor, said the first production still stands out for him. He said the producers should have tried to make it a different story from the first one.
He said: “I think Murphy should have let others create the characters and produce the movie. The guy is old now and his thinking is different.”
Actor-cum-filmmaker Ashukire Mwakisulu said though it is pleasing to see that the whole cast of the first movie is alive and back on the project, the producers fell short of putting together a great story as it lacks depth.
“I think they got stuck up with the success of the original film and that compromised the creative process. It is the same story told twice. I think Eddie and team never did their homework about how Africa has evolved in the last 30 years,” he said.
Another movie critic, Jones Mbera in an interview said people had different expectations about the movie, as such, it brings out different feelings. He said the way the producers managed to attain continuity in the production is their strongest point.
He said: “The movie was created to give room for part three and even more going forward. If you look at that aspect, you will see that they were creative enough.”
Local arts commentator Denis Iman said: “It is a great movie that connects the past to the present seamlessly. Looking at how long it has taken to come up with part two of the movie and how the narrative is able to connect the change that has taken place, I think is pure genius.
“The movie celebrates diversity and co-existence in a great way. It is a comedy so you don’t expect it to be as serious as Black Panther. That makes the roles of Snipes worth it.”