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The grass is always greener
If you have the right demeanor
To view negatives as novel
And see good in every hovel,
If you welcome every nuisance
And embrace the sad but true, since
You can meet the world sincerely
If you understand it clearly,
For “greener” is subjective
And dependent on perspective.
____________________

MPA rating:  R (mainly for language)

With the end of the year fast approaching and my backlog continuing to grow, I’m thinking I’ll need to shorten my reviews to churn them out a bit faster. And my Blindspots are especially in need of catching up. I had hoped to see Coming to America before its long-awaited sequel came out earlier this year, but life had other plans, as life so often does. Silly life…. Anyway, this is one of those ‘80s comedy classics that I’m somewhat surprised that I never watched sooner, simply because of a vague recollection that my mom once said it wasn’t that funny. While I can agree it’s not quite Eddie Murphy’s finest hour, I still found it to be a winning star vehicle for him.

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Murphy plays Prince Akeem Joffer, the heir of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, who is tired of having his every need supplied by overly attentive servants. After meeting his yes-woman of a bride-to-be (Vanessa Bell), Akeem decides to go on a trip with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find a bride of his own in New York City, whether his traditional parents (James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair) approve or not. Murphy gets comedic mileage out of the fish-out-of-water scenario, especially because he isn’t offended by NYC’s seedier aspects but embraces them wholeheartedly as a wonderful contrast to his life back home. Even so, several scenes go on too long, such as a tribal dance that would probably be labeled racist if Eddie Murphy wasn’t behind it. Plus, Murphy and Hall both relish in playing multiple colorful side characters, who aren’t particularly funny beyond the impressive makeup and the realization of who’s playing them.

Yet I found myself sold more on the romance than the comedy, as Akeem begins courting Lisa (Shari Headly), the daughter of his boss (John Amos) at a local fast-food restaurant. Their chemistry works especially well, and the humor of his trying to keep his true identity a secret gives way to a heart-meltingly sweet confession of love. I might have liked a little more context around a climactic “reveal,” but Coming to America was a satisfying and fun rom com and a who’s who of African American actors, from the early roles of Samuel L. Jackson and Cuba Gooding, Jr. to the reunion of Roots veterans Amos and Sinclair (not to mention an entirely unexpected cameo from another Murphy film that was worth the price of admission). I also love how Jones and Sinclair were later cast as another African royal couple in The Lion King. As with other Blindspots from that era, I feel like I might have a greater fondness for this film if I’d seen it years ago, but I’m still looking forward to revisiting the characters in the sequel now.

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Best line:  (Queen Aoleon, to Akeem) “When I first met your father, I was terrified.”
(King Jaffe) “I must admit, I was frightened too.”
(the Queen) “I was so nervous, I became nauseous. But over the years, I have grown to love your father very much.”
(the King) “So you see, my son, there is a very fine line between love and nausea.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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