Coming 2 America (12)
Verdict: Sequel to hit-and-miss
Verdict: cliché but smart
At what point does an overdue sequel become a bad-star sequel? It doesn’t just seem to be a matter of years.
More than half a century after the original, Mary Poppins Returns (2018) delivered box office numbers to please everyone at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and beyond. But after a hiatus of just 35 years, and despite being pretty damn good, Blade Runner 2049 stumbled.
The success of long-delayed sequels is not always determined by quality or appetite. I can’t remember calling for a new Mary Poppins and it was a movie I didn’t really care about, but it still brought in £ 250 million in magic.
Which brings me to Coming 2 America. We haven’t exactly screamed for it, but should we be glad it’s there? Yes and no, but most of all no, despite a cast list that only makes you smile when you look at it, with Morgan Freeman and Gladys Knight playing themselves.
Director Craig Brewer, along with stars Eddie Murphy (pictured above, featuring in Coming 2 America) and Arsenio Hall, clearly needn’t be reminded that the sensibilities are now very different from the ones who hailed Coming To America in 1988
Making sequels to 80s comedies without giving Tom Cruise any ideas is a risky endeavor. Times have changed and director Craig Brewer, along with stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, clearly didn’t need to be reminded that the sensibilities are now very different from those of Coming To America in 1988.
Feminism is a big part of the new film’s tense exuberance. We could call it Coming MeToo America.
Murphy and Hall play the same multiple roles as in the first film, directed by former Crown Prince Akeem, who becomes monarch of the remote African land of Zamunda when his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, played his original role in the old age of 90) finally kicks the royal bucket.
So who will take over the heir to the throne? Akeem and his wife Lisa (Shari Headley), formerly just Lisa McDowell of Queens, have only daughters, and the old Zamundan laws of birthright come into effect when Akeem is surprised to learn that he has an illegitimate son in New York who has lived all these years. conceived. suffered during a drug-induced rendezvous of which he has no memory.
To prevent villainous General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) from neighboring Nextdoria from settling on the throne of Zamundan by marrying his own son to one of the royal daughters, King Akeem and his best friend Semmi (Hall) return to America to find its adult. son Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and bring him and his raw uncouth mother Mary (Leslie Jones) to Zamunda.
What then unfolds is more or less a turnaround from the 1988 plot, with a streetwise New Yorker this time rummaging through the mysteries of Zamundan society. But the comedy never worked so well in the water-based Crocodile Dundee movies, and that’s the way it is here. Call it Murphy’s Law.
Teyana Taylor and Wesley Snipes in Coming 2 America. The success of long-delayed sequels is not always determined by quality or appetite, Brian Viner writes
There are a few riotous sequences, one of which arrives promisingly early in the form of the old king’s lavish funeral, which he insists takes place while alive to enjoy. Gladys Knight is performing, and that’s a hoot.
However, the original film was billed as ‘laugh a minute’, and the ratio this time is more like a laugh every 15 minutes. Murphy is still an engaging artist, especially in his two New York barber shops.
But both standards have fallen sharply since 1988, or we used to be much easier to please. Regardless, Coming 2 America needs more than a fixation on crowd-pleasing feminism, with Zamunda’s law of inheritance eventually turning in favor of Akeem’s eldest daughter Meeka (KiKi Layne), to make it a hit of 2021.
Moxie offers more of the same, but in a smarter, more engaging and much more intrusive way. Amy Poehler’s film, which echoes echoes of recent coming-of-age films like Lady Bird (2017) and Booksmart (2019), approaches the issue of high school sexism about as cautiously as a speeding truck.
Hadley Robinson starring Vivian Carter in Moxie. She starts a fierce underground campaign in response to a deeply sexist school culture
Hadley Robinson plays Vivian Carter, a reserved teenager who has been voted ‘most obedient’ by her classmates at Rockport High. She starts a fierce underground campaign in response to a deeply sexist school culture tolerated even by the ineffective head (Marcia Gay Harden) and embodied by the macho, arrogant soccer captain (Patrick Schwarzenegger).
Some characteristics lean towards the cartoonish, and if you’re tired of the clichés of American high school movies, this is definitely not a place to escape it. But movies-with-messages can be shrill and this one isn’t. Poehler (who also plays Vivian’s mother) likes it ticking, along with humor and charm.
Plus, a message shouldn’t lose relevance just because it’s coming through a megaphone.
Coming 2 America is available on Amazon Prime Video. Moxie is on Netflix.
The real thriller that everyone should see
With more news stories about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi almost every day, a new documentary about the whole shameful case, The Dissident (★ ★ ★ ★ nothing), is not timely.
Khashoggi was a courageous columnist and commentator who lamented the human rights violations led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (popularly known as ‘MBS’) and who paid for his outspoken candor with his life. In October 2018, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documents he needed for his upcoming wedding, but never got out alive.
Bryan Fogel’s film notes that Khashoggi was almost certainly killed on the direct orders of MBS and that his corpse was burned. In a macabre detail, we learn that the consulate ordered a huge batch of meat on the same day, probably cooked to mask the stench of burning human flesh.
Creepy Fate: Jamal Khashoggi (right)
Fogel is a highly skilled documentary maker whose 2017 film Icarus, about doping in the sports world, won an Oscar. The Dissident has been researched and made with the same precision, and while a beating percussive score is overdone, it adds a sort of thriller atmosphere to a film that should be seen by the widest possible audience.
The same cannot be said for Wander Darkly (★★ ✩✩✩). I’m a fan of both Sienna Miller and Diego Luna, who play a couple in a tense relationship whose lives are torn apart by a fatal traffic accident. They’re both reliably excellent, but Tara Miele’s film is a confusing hybrid of psychological thriller, spooky ghost story, and sentimental romance. Miller’s character largely meanders through it, sure she’s dead, and looks at earthly events from an unhappy afterlife. Long before the end, I started to feel the same myself.
Raya And The Last Dragon (★★ ✩✩✩) is a Disney animation that feels like it was cut from the things they cut from Mulan. I can’t claim to have seen too many movies about a girl and her adorable woodlouse companion looking to bring dragons back to life, but in all other respects it’s standard Disney fare.
Set in a mythical Far Eastern country, a predominantly Asian-American voice cast appears to be designed to ward off allegations of the dreaded ‘cultural appropriation’, but it doesn’t stop most of the characters (‘You did good , doo-drop, ‘says Raya’s father) sound like they’ve lived their entire lives in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
The Dissident will premiere tomorrow at the online Glasgow Film Festival and will be released next month. Wander Darkly is available on streaming platforms and Raya And The Last Dragon is on Disney +