Coming to America
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Coming to America casts comedian Eddie Murphy as pampered African prince Akeem, who rebels against an arranged marriage and heads to America to find a new bride. Murphy's regal father (James Earl Jones) agrees to allow the prince 40 days to roam the U.S., sending the prince's faithful retainer Semmi (Arsenio Hall) along to make sure nothing untoward happens. To avoid fortune hunters, Prince Akeem conceals his true identity and gets a "Joe job" at a fast-food restaurant. Murphy and Hall play multiple roles, and there are innumerable celebrity cameos peppered throughout the proceedings — including the Duke Brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) from Trading Places. Coming to America made further headlines when humorist Art Buchwald sued the film's producers for plagiarizing one of his works. Buchwald carried the case to trial, where he won a sizeable judgement against the film's producers.
- Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America
- Fit for Akeem: The Costumes of Coming to America
- Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker
- Composing America: The Musical Talents of Nile Rodgers
- A Vintage Sit-Down with Eddie and Arsenio
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery
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The problem is this particular prince. Maybe a few audience members found themselves wondering, "Africans are supposed to be poor! How come this guy has so much money?" The question is answered when the father shows up. The James Earl Jones character is modeled on Mobutu Sese Seko, down to the cap and lion-pelt sash. Mobutu, who ruled the country of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1965 until shortly before his death in 1997, was one of the most evil dictators of the 20th Century, right up there with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Mobutu established an authoritarian government in Zaire, and is estimated to have stolen at least 5 billion dollars from the national treasury, making him one of the most corrupt dictators of all time. The idea of a popular movie glorifying this level of theft, treating it as an object of amusement, is nauseating. Either everyone involved in this project was ignorant, or, even worse, they knew and didn't care.
The film itself has a sordid history. Humorist Art Buchwald sued Paramount Studios on the grounds that the script was similar to one Paramount had optioned from him years earlier. A court found in his favor, and Paramount later settled. The producers claimed that the story came from Eddie Murphy. I was told, by an industry insider, that Arsenio Hall, who had until then looked up to Murphy, was disillusioned by Murphy's apparent plagiarism of Buchwald's script, and that this contributed to his departure from hosting his daytime television show (also distributed by Paramount).
Many viewers might think the Mobutu connection far-fetched. This can only come from an ignorance of who Mobutu was. Once you know, it's not funny anymore.
In any case, Eddie Murphy and his sidekick Arsenio Hall left Africa for a stay in America. Their choice of place was either Los Angeles or New York and they chose the latter, for no particular good reason. In New York City, Murphy chose to live in Queens. Queens? Of all places! Well, I guess Murphy was looking for a queen, other than the one his parents had chosen for him, and a place called Queens seemed to be an appropriate place to look. Well, I've never been to Queens so It's hard for me to judge, but I guess their depiction of Queens was just as far off as their depiction of Africa, but in the totally opposite sense. It was awful! So then you had these two wide-eyed African newby guys trying to cope with their stay in Queens, and their luggage was stolen before they even checked in to the hotel. It was funny to watch. In any case, Murphy finally met and wooed a queen from Queens. and it all ended up back in Zamunda with the Royal Family.
The movie was light and frivolous, just as expected. Gags were aplenty. Personally, I didn't find it as hilarious as some of the other reviewers, but that's minor. The acting bordered on corny, but that's common in comedies. I left the video wondering if Queens was actually that bad or if it was just all part of the joke.