DAR Classic Films: Coming To America

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-I have a small list of favorite movies. My favorite movies are watched in repetition, over and over, time after time, year after year, and they never get old to me. One movie that truly captures this is my favorite movie of all time, Coming To America. I live for comedy, black comedy more so. Eddie Murphy was always my favorite comedian and this is the movie that cemented it. This movie also made me a fan of Arsenio Hall, as he and Eddie played Semmi and Akeem respectively. Akeem, Prince of the fictional African country Zamunda, is seeking a bride to be and he's not necessarily pleased with having a bride chosen for him. If he is to marry, he will marry on his own accord. So this leads him to America in search of that bride in New York. Queens to be exact. A silly premise essentially, this is the prime example of taking something simple and almost ridiculous and making it into complete gold. 

When I was very young, I used to watch comedies I probably shouldn't have at a young age and would laugh my ass off. I didn't get the humor completely, but the voices, the characters, and every moment was hilarious to me. Fast forward some 28 years after its release, and this movie holds up as if it was released yesterday. I can quote this movie damn near word for word, and my favorite scenes are almost endless. That's the true legacy of a movie of this caliber. Eddie Murphy was amazing in multiple roles, and the scenes in the barbershop showed his ability as an actor to weave seamlessly through multiple characters. Playing the lead barber and owner at the shop, Eddie would work perfectly in that role of Clarence, especially in his epic scene when he tried to convince people that he met Martin Luther King and met Frank Sinatra, before going on his "Fuck You, Fuck You, and Fuck You, Who's Next" rant to close out this part of the scene. It's so classic. 

Another moment I love is right before the Miss Black Awareness pageant, as Akeem and Semmi are talking to Clarence about where to find nice women in Queens. The exchange is just realistic and feels completely like a true to life conversation, before leading to the best moment of the entire movie in my opinion. Eddie played Randy Watson, a terrible singer who decides to bring his talents to the Black Awareness Pageant. It's there we see Arsenio Hall as Reverend Brown, and in another hilarious moment, he starts preaching after noticing how beautiful the women in the pageant are. The moment he goes into full "I don't know what you come to do, but IIIIIII.... come to PRAISE HIS NAME" mode is absolutely hilarious and one of the best moments of the best scene. In addition to this, another hilarious moment comes between Clarence, Morris (played by Arsenio Hall), and Sweets at the pageant as they hand the collection plate over and he puts a chicken bone in thinking it's a mini trash can. However, the greatest moment of this entire scene comes in the form of Randy Watson. Period.

Joining the stage with his band Sexual Chocolate (another hilarious moment), Randy hugs and kisses Reverend Brown as Reverend Brown wipes his face off right after, another gem of a moment and as Randy performs, it's the greatest worst performance of all time. The dragging of the notes, the lack of actual singing ability, the fact that he was Joe the Policeman from the What's Going Down episode of That's My Mama, everything about this scene is hilarious, and when he drops the mic after screaming "Sexual Chocolate", tears begin rolling down my eyes. As Clarence and company watch him walk off the stage and Clint remarks "that boy good", Clarence responds quickly "mmhm, good and terrible", yet another quote from this film. This whole Black Awareness Pageant scene is my favorite part of the movie, as there is nothing but quotes throughout this entire scene and inclusion of new characters played by Eddie and Arsenio. 

I often found the whole Lisa and Patrice McDowell plight interesting too, as Patrice ends up going out once with Akeem, Lisa, and her boyfriend Darryl to a basketball game, and the fallout from that is hilarious. Patrice wanted Akeem, but Akeem wanted Lisa. Lisa was dating Darryl (unhappily), and Patrice ends up thinking Semmi was the prince of Zamunda, and sleeps with him because of that. Where as Patrice was interested in chasing money and power under the surface, Lisa was unhappy with the wealthy, arrogant Darryl, and began falling for the presumably less wealthy and poor (based on the appearance he wanted to give off) Akeem. It's a funny story in essence and it all works out of course when Akeem and Lisa end up dating and falling in love. Sure, there's the happily ever after ending, but there's also a ton of comedic genius moments in between the message and the love story. 

28 years later, this movie is still a classic. This movie is still as funny as it was then. Coming To America is my personal favorite movie of all time, and whenever I'm in need of a great laugh, I always turn to that movie. 

There aren't very many movies that are true classics, meaning they stand the test of time, transcend every demographic, every decade and is well received by both men and women. There definitely isn't any romantic comedy that has done that except for "Coming To America". 

While this wasn't Eddie Murphy's first acting role, it would be widely considered his best work. He's always been a humorous, smooth, confident and multifaceted actor, but we would truly see the extent of that in this movie. Eddie Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall would take on a few comical roles each, which just adds to the hilarity while James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair would balance them out with their more serious character portrayals. This seems straightforward enough, many writers and directors had done this before, so why is THIS movie so incredible? That's an easy one. It's for a couple reasons. 

1. In 1988, there was no other rom-com that fused traditional African cultural practices with that of North American culture while incorporating a humorous love story. 

2. No actors at the time were casting to play several roles...and that is where the brilliance lies. Without the help of computer graphics, high tech editing machines "Coming To America" would give Eddie Murphy the experience to play 4 characters in a single feature (a tactic he would use throughout his career) and also have his co-star do the same flawlessly. The entire cast executed each of their roles perfectly to create one of, if not THE MOST entertaining movie of all time. "Coming to America" is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I watch it regularly and am brought to hysterical laughter every time, but if asked what my most favorite scenes are I would have to say the following three:

3. When Prince Akeem has declared he would like to go to America to find a wife, him and Semmi are choosing where in America to go. While they narrow the United States down to two cities, LA and NY, a coin toss becomes the decision maker and the two of them look at NY in an atlas through a magnifying glass and go through looking at all the boroughs and finally decide on Queens. (I'm laughing as I write this) the dialogue is what kills me:

Semmi: But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king?

Semmi/Prince Akeem: "QUEENS!"

I think it's the absolute irony in the way Queens is portrayed that makes it so funny because the movie takes on a whole entire different kind of humor once they get there.

2. When King Joffrey and Queen Aeoleon arrive in Queens with the entire palace staff and the same shenanigans are being done on the streets of New York. And then the King going to the barbershop to find Akeem. I love the entire production of their arrival with 4 limos, petal throwers, Oha and the King stepping perfectly on the minimal petals on the ground emerging draped in an entire lion and the way the barbers react when he walks in. It kills me!

1. And my most favorite scene and quote of the entire movie is the opening scene with the instrumental melody that serves as a "wake up alarm" for the prince, as the royal servants wash him and all of a sudden a woman emerges from the water and says "the royal penis is clean your highness" . I think the hilarity of that is because being the first scene of the movie, it's so unexpected and SO extra. Not to mention this line is probably the most referenced when talking about the film. His facial expression, the other royal servants lack of reaction as if it's normal is just incredibly funny and also well played. That quote have been used by rappers and have been referred to in other movies...it was just so perfectly executed!!

Like I said the entirety of "Coming To America" is fantastic. The storyline, the incorporation of African culture and the comedic take on royals is what makes it a brilliant comedy. The quest for love and the hurdles he goes through to get it is engaging while somehow managing to keep the sappy over-the-top cheesiness to a minimum so it's pleasing to everyone. Eddie Murphy and the entire cast did a fantastic job of creating a movie that is just as good, just as funny and just as popular some 28 years later.


I remember the first time I heard that line. I died laughing because, as a kid, I was always interested in some wacky-ass shit. So, when young SOTB!!! (yes, the exclamation points are needed. Almost always) checked out Coming to America for the first time, I was in awe at how hilarious and classic it was. Sure, some of the schematics were wrong as hell (finding out there was no Zamunda was like finding out Santa Claus wasn't real for some of us). But the film has all the makings of a classic.

You want a riches-to-rags-to-riches comeup? Coming to America.

You want a dope ass soundtrack? Coming To America. 

You want a movie that deals with ethnic stereotypes in a way that's, while slightly stereotypical itself, still graceful and opens up discussions? Check out Coming to America.

You want a fairy tale sort of romance with BLACK PEOPLE? Coming to America.

You wanna see some titties and a scene where "the royal penis" gets "cleaned?" Coming To Motherfuckin' America.

You just wanna fuck around and let your SOUUULLLLL GLOOOOOOOOOO? Well, you know where to go.

The movie, if you haven't seen it, is Eddie Murphy (and Arsenio Hall, for real) at his best. No, really. I'm not just saying that. As Prince Akeem and various other characters, Murphy got to let his, pardon the pun, soul glow and let his comedic genius shine through (two Soul Glo puns in one sentence; I'm on a roll). 

Yeah, The Nutty Professor had him playing an old woman with the sex drive of a 20-year-old. That's cool. But, Coming to America felt so much more realistic than many of Murphy's efforts afterwards. We got to feel like we were both in Zamunda and in a realistic portrayal of New York (even if it relied on 80s/90s NYC stereotypes to bring it to life at times).

Plus, his accent, while pretty off, was still more accurate than a lot of "Americans doing African accents" moments. I've rambled on too long. Just go revisit one of the greatest Black comedies--hell, one of the greatest comedies period in my opinion.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-So, 28 years later, we all still love and enjoy this film and consider it one of the greatest comedies ever. Imagine a premise based around a Prince of a fictional country in Africa, who comes to America to find his bride after calling off his appointed wedding, only to live poorly in New York City on his quest because he wants someone to like him for him and not for his wealth and stature. He has a sidekick with him, and they cruise the town looking for women that could be his queen,  which is an underrated scene when they end up in the nightclub. Aside from the bouncy rhythm of "what you want... I know I got it... what you need... I know I got it GURL" (still not sure what song that is because it isn't on the soundtrack), the process is like an audition for the women, and none of them are fitting what he wants, and the results are exactly what you expect: comedy. It's moments like that which make this movie so special. Who would have thought a movie with this premise would become one of the greatest comedies in the history of film? It definitely blows my mind to some extent. With a legacy that remains and seemingly continues to build, Coming to America is timeless. 



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