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John Landis
Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Eriq La Salle, Samuel L. Jackson
Writing Credits:
Eddie Murphy (story), David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein

When justice is blind, it knows no fear.

In this modern-day fairy tale, Eddie Murphy stars as a wealthy and pampered African prince who comes to America in search of a bride. His destination, of course, is Queens, New York. Accompanied by his closest companion (Arsenio Hall), the Prince quickly finds a job, new friends, new digs, new enemies, and more trouble than he ever imagined. Coming To America is a hysterical fable with Murphy and Hall playing hilarious multiple roles with the help of astounding makeup effects.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Domestic Gross
$128.152 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $12.98
Release Date: 3/9/1999

• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Coming To America (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 11, 2007)

After Eddie Murphy became an enormous movie star, his ego started to get the best of him. That meant a series of flicks in which he presented himself more and more as some sort of slick hero, a trend that took us away from the rough-hewn charm that made him famous. In 1988’s Coming to America, Murphy goes even farther: he casts himself as a virile African prince.

In Coming, Murphy plays young Prince Akeem of Zamunda as he reaches his 21st birthday. On this day, he meets his preordained bride-to-be, but Akeem displays no excitement. Indeed, Akeem tires of his pampered position and wishes for something different. He wants an independent woman and a life with more freedom.

King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) just thinks Akeem wants to get some out-of-town loving, so he grants a delay of 40 days before the royal wedding occurs. However, Akeem plans to find a bride on his own, so he sets out for New York with his pal Semmi (Arsenio Hall). After many misfires, he meets educated, sophisticated Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) at a black awareness rally. Akeem falls for her, and the rest of the movie follows his attempts to woo her.

Coming reunited Murphy with director John Landis, the man behind 1983’s Trading Places, the actor’s second big hit. Coming snared Murphy and Landis another box office success, but it fell short of the amusement found in Places. I wouldn’t call that flick a classic, as it ran too long and went down too many dead ends. Nonetheless, it consistently entertained and demonstrated an easy charm largely absent from Coming.

In no way would I describe Coming as a dud, and compared to the Murphy efforts that followed for much of the next decade, it looks pretty good. However, that falls into “faint praise” territory, as it doesn’t take much to seem funny compared to crap like Harlem Nights and Beverly Hills Cop III. Coming betters those clunkers, but it falls short of Murphy’s earlier successes.

Some of the problems come from Murphy’s ego. The flick presents an indulgent fantasy with Murphy as pampered royalty. Maybe I shouldn’t knock Murphy for his decision to play a prince. After all, it’s not like he’s the first actor to take on such a role. However, the problem stems from Murphy’s attitude, as he really seems to believe the hype. Sure, Akeem comes across as a man of the people and tries to fit in with commoners, but Murphy’s arrogance remains in place.

Much of Coming suffers from excessive length and additional indulgence. At 116 minutes, it seems too long for a light comedy such as this, and too many scenes plod along past the point of no return. For instance, the African dance sequence at the betrothal ceremony runs forever without much purpose, and other bits like the “McDowell’s vs. McDonald’s” scene drag. We get the gag without so much explanation; the excessive discussion robs the piece of its effectiveness, and it’s not alone.

Other parts of the flick come across as little more than barely connected skits and chances for Murphy and Hall to play various characters. They don lots of makeup to portray various Americans, and these bits wear thin before too long. Some of them work – the barbershop guys get the movie’s best laughs – but we find too many of them. The gimmick gets old, and the fact that so few of the scenes make sense within the story doesn’t help.

Again, I wouldn’t call Coming to America a bad flick. It presents a little charm along with a smattering of funny bits such as one memorable cameo I won’t mention so I won’t ruin the surprise. However, its mix of arrogance and self-indulgence makes it less successful than it should be. This is mediocre Murphy.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for a little tag from the barbershop guys. Oh, and also look for some future stars on display, as Cuba Gooding Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson pop up in minor roles.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Coming to America appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That surprised and disappointed me, and the transfer lost some points due to the absence of anamorphic enhancement.

Sharpness took a hit without the 16X9 transfer. Actually, the movie usually displayed decent definition, as the majority of the flick offered acceptable delineation. However, many shots came across as less concise than I’d like, and they could be a little rough around the edges. Jags and shimmering created minor concerns, and I noticed moderate edge enhancement through the movie. As for source flaws, the film displayed sporadic examples of specks and marks, though it usually seemed to be fairly clean.

Colors were erratic as well. At their best, the tones appeared pretty lively, and the various settings offered a broad set of hues. However, at times the colors could be rather mushy and runny, so they lacked consistency. Blacks were a little too dark, and shadows tended to appear somewhat dense as well. This was an acceptable transfer but not any better than that.

Ups and downs also came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Coming to America. For the most part, the soundfield offered a subdued affair. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and the movie featured a decent sense of ambience. Not too many scenes broadened beyond that general feeling of environment, though a few sequences opened up matters slightly. For instance, the fireworks at the bridal ceremony used the rear speakers well. Otherwise, this was a subdued mix.

Audio quality varied from good to iffy. Speech demonstrated the most notable concerns, as some lines could sound a bit edgy and rough. Most of the dialogue seemed reasonably natural, though. Music showed good clarity, though the score and songs lacked great dimensionality; low-end response was less than stellar. Effects seemed clear and accurate, though they also never stood out as especially memorable. Overall, the mix was fine for its age but not any better than that.

Don’t expect to find lots of great extras here. Instead, the DVD offers the film’s trailers and nothing else.

Eddie Murphy’s last genuine hit for almost a decade, Coming to America hasn’t aged particularly well. Too long and too inconsistent, the movie has some laughs but not enough to make it a winner. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio and lacks substantial extras. This is a bland release for a spotty flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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