Coming to America


Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the prince and heir to the throne of the fictitious African country Zamunda, is discontented with being pampered all his life. The final straw is when his parents (James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair) present him with a bride-to-be (Vanessa Bell) he has never met before, trained to mindlessly obey his every command.

Akeem concocts a plan to travel to America to find a wife he can both love and respect. He and his servant & friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) arrive in Queens County, New York, and after several scrapes, find an apartment in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights, and begin working at a local restaurant called McDowell’s (the restaurateur’s attempt to copy McDonald’s) passing themselves off as students. When he first meets Akeem and Semmi, owner Mr. McDowell (John Amos) explains all the minute differences between his place and McDonald’s, ending with the line, “They use the sesame seed bun. My buns have no seeds.”

Akeem falls in love with Lisa (Shari Headley), Mr. McDowell’s daughter, who possesses the qualities the prince is looking for. The rest of the film centers on Akeem’s attempts to win Lisa’s hand in marriage, while adjusting to life in America and dodging his royal duties and prerogatives. Unfortunately, Semmi is not comfortable with the life of a poor man and thus unintentionally causes a near-disaster when, alerted by a plea for more financial help, the Zamundian royal family travels to the United States. Lisa learns that Akeem is actually a prince and is at first angry and confused as to why he lied to her about it. At this point, she refuses to marry Akeem and Akeem returns to Zamunda with a broken heart. At the end, we see Akeem about to wed a bride who he discovers is Lisa. They ride off in a carriage after the ceremony.


In the 80s, Eddie Murphy was, pardon the pun, the Golden Child. His movies were the equivalent to what Will Smith’s are today. 99.9% guaranteed to be a hit. This happens to be one of his best.

Murphy takes on many roles thought the use of makeup, including becoming an old, Jewish guy. The first time I saw this film, I had no idea that was him until the credits rolled.

Aresnio Hall takes on a similar task, but doesn’t play as many characters

Both Hall and Murphy portray Africans who come to Queens. AS far as I know neither had really been to Africa before this film, but they seemed to really capture the accents and mannerisms of African royalty and that of 2 guys out of place in New York.

James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair are brilliant as Murphy’s parents. Jones is downright scary as the king (channeling Darth Vader, I would imagine), and Sinc;air is quite matronly. I wonder if the Disney people saw the pairing of these two when they were casting Mufasa and Serabi in The Lion King.

There are quite a few cameos and special appearances in this film from actors who went on to become big stars such as Garcelle Beauvais, Samuel L. Jackson, and a very young Cuba Gooding, Jr. Most people miss Cuba, but he’s the little boy sitting in the chair getting his hair cut while the barbers are arguing over boxing. Also, a couple of characters from a previous Murphy film, Trading Places, appear. Don Ameche and Raplh Bellamy reprise their roles, but if you haven’t seen Trading Places, then their appearance doesn’t really have any significance.

The African dance scenes are incredible, but probably the highlight of the film, other than Murphy and Hall playing multiple characters has to be the scene where the Jenks’ get up from the couch and you see 3 spot from where they had been sitting, courtesy of their Soul Glo hair.

It is too bad Eddie can’t seem to recapture the magic he had in the 80s. He could use another film as funny as this one. I’ve read a few reviews saying this film is dated. Well, of course its dated. It was made in the 80s, but that’s part of what makes it so special. I hope you’ll take the time to watch this film. I just hope you don’t die laughing.

5 out of 5 stars

7 Responses to “Coming to America”

  1. […] be from somewhere in the Caribbean, seems to have the same accent as his African Prince Akeem from Coming to America. He also plays a couple of other characters, Preacher Polly and the Italian mobster, Guido. Neither […]

  2. […] When you mess with people’s lives, more often than not, it will come back and bite you in the end. Just ask the two antagonists of Trading Places, who you may recognize as the two bums outside the restaurant in Coming to America. […]

  3. […] naked so much. Had this made in the US like this, it would be NC-17, for that very reason. Hell, Coming to America ended up getting an R not because of the language, but because of the bare breasts that were on […]

  4. […] play a couple of other characters in the same film. Sometimes this pays off a la Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Other times, it is a big flop, a la Murphy in Norbit. What can be said, though, is that Peter […]

  5. […] about Muhammed Ali, mostly from greatest athlete of all time lists and the barbershop scene in Coming to America, but never really knew anything about him. It wasn’t until 1996, when an older, […]

  6. […] to preface this by saying I always crack up at Eddie Murphy as the Jewish guy in the barbershop in Coming to America, so there is a way this can be done correctly. However, whoever did this makeup job on Christopher […]

  7. […] New York. New York is one of those cities that is able to be as much a character on film as the actors. The people, the colorful language that New Yorkers are known for, traffic, and of course the landmarks (I am always moved to watch a film pre-9/11 and see the Twin Towers). If you can’t appreciate how this plays into the story, I seriously wonder about you. It is magnified because this is a guy from another country and doesn’t know our customs, much like Eddie Murphy’s character, to a lesser extent, was in Coming to America. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: