The Once and Future King?
by Jeff Bowles
So let’s say you’re a movie star who’s been part of the popular imagination for forty years. You’re given the opportunity to reprise a role that helped establish your legacy, and let’s be honest, the big parts aren’t exactly pouring in these days. Should you A). Disregard said opportunity, knowing full well it’s very difficult to capture lightning in a bottle, or B). Throw caution to the wind and have a great time making a follow-up to a movie successive generations know and love?
Eddie Murphy appears to have found himself in just such a situation, because when it came time to make a sequel to Coming to America, he didn’t hesitate. Without a doubt, he and the filmmakers would’ve preferred to debut this new movie in theaters, but that’s not an option during a global pandemic. Coming to America 2 (or is that Coming 2 America?) is available exclusively on the Amazon Prime Video streaming service. The original is widely considered one of the best comedies of the ‘80s. It’s sharp, aggressive, honest, romantic, and best of all, silly in all the right ways. A lot of time has passed since its release, yet it still holds up remarkably well. So why not give it a sequel? Why not take all these fan-favorite characters for another spin around the block?
Here’s why. Nostalgia is only as good as the material propping it up. If a film is going to devote most of its comedic resources to nailing the exact same jokes and situations as its predecessor, it’s got to work twice as hard to prove itself worthy of our time. Unfortunately, Coming 2 America proves nothing except the obvious: you can never go home again. Look, you walk into the barbershop and all the characters are played by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. Same joke as last time. Still funny, but not as funny as it used to be. Or maybe you go out to listen to a band with a terrible lead singer (also played by Eddie Murphy) and their ridiculous name, Sexual Chocolate, makes you smile. Same joke as last time. Still funny, but…
This pattern appears consistently throughout Coming 2 America’s runtime. Even the basic premise amounts to a variation on a well-established theme. This time around Prince Akeem (or rather, King Akeem) must travel to the US in order to meet his illegitimate son. Hijinks ensue, but um, why does it feel so exhausting? It’s like going to see your favorite band and hearing nothing but cover songs. Wesley Snipes, for instance, plays a pretty clear-eyed comedic version of a murderous warlord turned politician, but his presence does nothing to disrupt the flow of same-old, same-old. No sequel has ever ruined a great predecessor. People may say so, but rarely does the supposition hold water. This sequel, in fact, only makes you want to watch the original more. ‘Cause it was killer fun. You know, yay for that original!
A couple other potential pitfalls for audiences looking to recapture thirty-three-year-old magic: there’s no swearing. I mean none. No nudity either. Is that a problem in general? Nope, but the first movie had some serious edge to it, and this thing does not. In essence, it feels like a sequel to a totally different film. There’s also a serious lack of material shot on location. For a film that takes place in Africa and New York City, movie sets are uncommonly common. Incidentally, just a few days after its release, Coming 2 America quickly became the most streamed movie on any platform during the COVID-19 era. Go ahead and look it up, Amazon has a hit on their hands.
Realistically, though, they should’ve had to work just a bit harder to earn it. Watch this movie and see how quickly you forget about it. For my wife and me, the shelf life was two days, two whole days, and then it vanished like an errant spray of Soul Glo hair product in the wind.
Oh no, a callback to the original movie. See? They’ve even got me doing it now!
None of this is to suggest Coming 2 America is little more than a jaded corporate cash grab. Sincerely, the movie appears to have been made with the best of artistic intentions. Word on the street is Eddie Murphy now wants to make another entry in his Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Everything old is new again. Or is it the other way around? Let’s try Casablanca 2, or maybe Citizen Kane: Rosebud’s Revenge. Apocalypse Now, Now. Star Wars Episode … nope, never mind. They did that one already.
Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Coming 2 America a Six out of Ten.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!
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There was a time when watching television would make people feel guilty…as if they had nothing better to do. I have something better to do. I can watch better quality TV instead of the ubiquitous TV crapola. These days we have choices in TV-Land. Sometimes my wife and I watch TV all day and all night. I admit to some exaggeration here. I don’t watch TV all day; not any more. There was a time when I was pretty unmotivated and I watched TV around the clock…and I felt guilty about it. Fortunately that time is passed. I watch TV judiciously, choosing carefully what I expose myself to. There are as many TV universes as there are significant demographics. There are ravening people who feast on Jerry Springer and gentle wine-drinking people who watch PBS-only docs and dramas. I fall somewhere towards the latter. My spouse is more broadminded; she helps me expand my range of experiences. She’s addicted to The Home Shopping Network. We are both addicted to shows about animals and veterinarians.
I’m a keen observer of TV-as-cultural phenomenon. It’s the most powerful thing in the world outside of the Hydrogen Bomb. Television has dominated our experiential landscape since the early fifties and never more so than today. We have emerged into a golden age for television. There’s immense variety, convenience, amazing quality and the television sets have become so smart that they require control like a rowdy drunk at a party. It took me days to figure out how our new device functions. I still haven’t conquered the remote control. I can talk to it and it often responds. I’d be screwed if I couldn’t talk to that thing. It wouldn’t surprise me, if, some day soon, the remote responds with something like “Hey, I’m busy, asshole. Try again later.” I would expect rudeness from a television device. After all, this is the thing that brought us “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Sometimes I hear my wife talking in the bedroom. Is she on the phone? No. She’s talking to the remote. Begging, pleading, bargaining with the remote.
We love to binge. That sets the tone of our lives. What will we binge tonight? It’s not easy to find binge-worthy stuff. Thank god for National Geographic, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Between Mrs. Maisel, Dr.Pol and Fleabag we have a good time. Fleabag is the work of actress/director/writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge. When we saw the last episode of Fleabag I shouted “Magnificent!” I don’t always offer such spontaneous accolades. Phoebe plays the character known only as Fleabag. She’s a fairly gorgeous creature in her gawky comical way. She’s maybe too tall, her nose is a little skewed, but these aspects are essential to her character. She would be boring if she had all the beauty conventions. The stories revolve around the Search For Love. Who isn’t searching? This quest is especially powerful in the young. It surges in women who are reaching a certain age, an age when their mothers are asking “When are you going to get married?” Fleabag is precisely that age and her obsessions are pulling her puppet strings. If she weren’t wryly self-aware she’d be suicidal. She is recovering from an awful trauma. Her best friend committed suicide over a breakup. She walked out into traffic and gave up her life. This grief haunts Fleabag and steels her determination to continue living. She too has ended a long relationship. Now she’s thrust into the world of men, those strange groping creatures who don’t understand women. Sound familiar? That’s US! The thing is, Phoebe/Fleabag is funny! Her wit is corrosive yet compassionate. When the two seasons were over we were gasping for more. Alas, Phoebe is moving into new productions. Watch her!
We binged on the two seasons of “You”. It’s gripping, but it’s also repugnant. In the beginning of the series the protagonist, Joe Goldberg, seems to be a likeable fellow. He develops into a monster as the tale unfolds. I’m holding back the spoilers here. The story hangs on Joe’s transformation into something sinister. His obsession is, again, Love. Or, more specifically, Women. The show gives us Joe’s thought processes. The narration is Joe’s self-talk and he has a one track mind.
I must remind my readers that I have a “writer’s rule” that I scrupulously observe. “Is this story worth telling?” I have three criteria that stories should encompass. They should be entertaining, insightful, and, if possible, inspiring. If they can’t reach the level of inspiration they should at least not leave us depressed. We get enough of that shit all around us. After watching every episode of “You” and being entertained, I still have mixed feelings as to whether or not we should have gone through the experience. There are plenty of shows about dark characters. Darkness is important to drama. It’s like death itself. Without death there would be no passion in life. All of life’s tensions and excitement are generated by the clash between light and dark. Is this oversimplified? Perhaps. I’m left with a slightly sour feeling about “You”. If I had eaten Joe Goldberg for dinner, I would have gas and diarrhea in the morning. Watch the series, by all means. It’s very good, well acted, well written…but I’ve warned you. Take some Pepto Bismol to bed, put it on your night table.
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv.
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In Zomnibus, by New York Times best selling author, Kevin J. Anderson each case is a short tale in the unlife of a zombie detective. In the world following the Big Uneasy and the return from death en mas, vampires may be victims, ghosts can be discriminated against, zombie’s might be graffitti artists and ogres serve as security guards. Together with his human business partner and his ghost of a girlfriend, Dan Shamble detective agency solves cases for both living and unnatural clients.
These zombie detective tales are carefully crafted to keep your attention and tickle your funny bone. Anderson’s light tone and corny humor guarantee the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. tales will evoke at least a few chuckles. I give Zomnibus five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.