Hollywood's love of reboots doesn't have to be depressing.
Eddie Murphy's 1988 movie Coming to America is the latest classic movie to get a Hollywood revival decades later.
At this point it's a familiar formula. Rather than investing any money in the risk of an original concept, a film studio will dig up a beloved movie—long after anyone was expecting anything out of it—and run it through the reboot assembly line.
Throw a half-dozen writers at cleaning up a rushed screenplay, give it an oversized budget for flashy effects and current stars, crank the hollow fan-service up to 11, and attach a director the studio knows they can push around. Et voila! You've disappointed nostalgic fans to the tune of $400 million at the box office.
Is this really a sustainable model? How many times can fans suffer through movies like Men in Black: International or Jurassic World before they stop investing their hopes and their hard-earned money in these reboots?
Fortunately, Coming 2 America—or Coming to America 2, depending who you ask—isn't following that mold. Rather than slapping a marketable brand on a cookie cutter piece of Hollywood pablum, the sequel that fans have waited more than 30 years to see brings back the actors and creators who made the original so great.
Coming To America (All of the Barbershop Scenes) 1080p HD www.youtube.com
Much of the 1988 film's cast—including James Earl Jones, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, Louie Anderson, and John Amos—returned for the sequel. And, in addition to reprising his role as Prince Akeem Joffer of the fictional African nation of Zamunda (along with hopefully about a dozen other characters), Eddie Murphy collaborated with the original film's screenwriters, David Sheffeild and Barry W. Blaustein, with the addition of Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.
While the original film's director, John Landis, was not involved in the sequel, the new director, Craig Brewer, proved himself last year when he helped to launch Eddie Murphy's comeback with the hilarious and heartwarming Dolemite Is My Name.
Coming 2 America, which Amazon just picked up for digital distribution in a deal with Paramount, follows Prince Akeem as he prepares to assume the throne and finds out that he has a son he didn't know about back in America. While the original film tells the love story of Prince Akeem traveling to New York City in search of love, it turns out he did in fact—as his father, King Jaffe, suggested—"sow his royal oats" and must return to the US to meet his son.
The new premise sounds like a solid follow-up to the original story, and the fact that so many of the key figures from the 1988 film have returned is promising, as is the addition of comedian Jermaine Fowler as Akeem's son, Lavelle, with Murphy's fellow SNL alums Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan playing Lavelle's mother and uncle, respectively.
Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan filming "Coming 2 America"
Of course none of this is a guarantee that Coming 2 America—which is slated for a December 18th release on Amazon Prime—will live up to the high standard set by its predecessor, but at least it won't be another over-processed reboot that mistakes brand recognition and production value for the hard work and talent that actually makes a movie work.
By contrast, the Beverly Hills Cop series—another classic from Eddie Murphy's past—has gone through a messy cycle of planned and scrapped reboots since the 1990s. With Beverly Hills Cop IV delayed, canceled, rewritten, reworked into a rejected TV pilot, and handed off from one director to another in a depressing relay, fans are left uncertain about whether it will ever actually get made.
As of May, the film was once again being rewritten, with production delayed by the pandemic lockdown. But if the directing team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah—who are currently attached to the project—take their cues from Coming 2 America and focus on preserving what people loved about the original franchise, maybe Eddie Murphy's triumphant return to the cinema will continue when Axel Foley finally arrives on Netflix.
In either case, as sad as it is that the film industry has such an aversion to original work, at least with projects like Coming 2 America there's hope that a faithful reboot can do a classic movie justice.