25 years later, ‘Coming to America’ a classic

The year 1988 was a monumental year for film-seeing as the original “Die Hard” premiered in July and the genre-bending film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” leaped to screens with both animated and live action performance.

Another film is celebrating its 25th anniversary in addition to these two highly entertaining films, “Coming to America,” one of Eddie Murphy’s early films.

“Coming to America” starts off with a hilarious continuous sequence that introduces viewers to what looks like a high and mighty royal who has a servant for everything. All is not what it seems when Murphy’s character, Akeem, admits he is sick of the royal treatment.

Prince Akeem is doted upon, from roses at his feet to a servant who wipes the young prince’s backside. After admitting he is fed up with this lifestyle and is ready for a change of pace, he is nearly forced into a marriage with a young woman who will serve him and follow his every command.

This is the final straw for Akeem, who decides to go to America to find a queen who will not serve him, but provide intelligence and independence. Akeem finds himself in Queens, N.Y., because obviously the best place to find a once and future queen is in Queens.
Akeem is played by a young Murphy shortly after his starring role in “Trading Places” and successful stint on Saturday Night Live.

Murphy is at his best in “Coming to America” with a soft, naive dialect, iconic smile and hilarious laugh. The humor Murphy presents is different than what audiences have seen recently.

While Murphy finds himself behind heavy makeup and facial prosthetics today, his first experience came in the 1988 film and, in my opinion, is far more entertaining than recent films with him as multiple characters.

The humorous dialogue is also surprisingly different than modern comedies. While inappropriate language is featured throughout, it’s more of a parody of the cynical attitude of eighties New York rather than unfunny nonsensical phrasing.

Murphy remains calm and collected as Akeem, but his other characters allow him a chance to let his freak flag fly. As a barber in Queens, he is manic and high-pitched while spouting lies about meeting famous individuals such as Frank Sinatra and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Murphy especially shines as the Women Awareness entertainment for the night as Randy Watson. Watson, a Jheri-curled greaseball singer, manages to entertain with both his outrageous antics and slimy singing.

“Coming to America” also marks the difference between a romantic comedy today and one in the eighties. Rather than shoving romance into a half-baked comedic idea, “Coming to America” manages to allow the romance to form the basis of the plot with comedic elements.

The film is primarily successful in doing this, but the moments between comedy sometimes slows down the pacing.

If you’re looking for a blast to the past with some humorous moments and a simple story, then I recommend you celebrate this film’s 25th anniversary by picking up this modern classic.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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