When I first saw the Coming 2 America trailer, I just KNEW Twitter was going to hate it. Having watched the film, the sentiment remains. Sadly, audiences beyond social media may feel the same way.
As someone who probably would not be here today had it not been for the film, this a pretty crushing thing to have to admit.
You see, my parents watched the original Coming To America while on a date in Zambia. Years later, when it aired on TV here in South Africa, my mom (who ended up marrying my dad and starting a family with him) exclaimed how much she loved the film – both for its hilarious content and the memories attached to it.
Close to the age my parents were on that memorable date all those years ago, I am disappointed that Coming 2 America failed to strike a chord with me. Not just because of my personal history with the first version, but also as a person who fits the general demographic of a large part of the audience that will be watching the sequel when it hits cinemas across South African and globally on Amazon Prime.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what exactly might be wrong with the film? Well, from the perspective of a young African woman…
The first problem is that it tries too hard to bridge the gap between the humour that carried it in 1988 and the humour that works in 2021.
Those are two worlds that have no business being mish-mashed together.
Especially not when someone like Kenya Barris (creator of shows such as Blackish, Grownish and Black AF) is brought on board to write a large part of the script for the new version of Coming to America.
Barris thrives on taking the piss with regards to concepts believed to be popular amongst the “woke” crowd, all while touching on meme culture and using words favoured by this crowd in an effort to demonstrate that the project essentially understands where they’re coming from.
This is something Coming 2 America tries very hard to do all while trying to remain true to the irreverent comedic stylings of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. This just doesn’t work.
Secondly, the film has way too many subplots going over and above the main plot of the film and that just feels like a consequence of trying to fit 30+ years into 1 hour and 50 minutes.
This results in a mess of contradictory plots set against the backdrop of jokes that just don’t land.
The third and final problem with the film is the accents. I guess this will ALWAYS be a problem for American productions set in Africa and filmed everywhere but in Africa.
While I understand that Zamunda is a fictional African nation with no real reference point for how people from the nation sound, it doesn’t make it any easier to hear 16 different accents in a scene featuring only 3 actors.
Are there no dialect coaches who specialise in African accents working in Hollywood?
Even our own Nomzamo Mbatha could not keep her real accent which many people from all over the world deem “not African enough.” So she ended up sounding somewhat Zimbabwean, somewhat Kenyan and a little bit Nigerian.
Despite not being as pedantic as I am, even my parents and others in this demographic might also question some of the film’s missteps.
People of my generation on the other hand? They will either hate it or love it.
But the one thing we might all be able to agree upon is a call for the film’s young talent to be given a range of other projects to really showcase what they can do.
Kaunda is an analogue girl navigating a digital world using the perspective provided by news. She has always had a desire to amass a wealth of knowledge on a range of varied topics and this is reflected in the content she produces. As a digitally adept social media user, you can always trust Kaunda to bring you up to speed on what’s going on in the world at any given moment