Coming To America is a romantic comedy starring Eddie Murphy. He plays Akeem, an African prince from the fictional country of Zamunda. On his twenty-first birthday, as is tradition, he is presented with a beautiful woman who has been raised to be his bride and serve him. Akeem rejects this because he wants to meet a woman, who is her own person, and fall in love with her. With his companion Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in tow, they head to America, selecting what they believe is the appropriately titled Queens, NY.
Akeem doesn’t want anyone to know he is royalty, so he and Semmi live in a run-down, rat-infested apartment and take jobs at a hamburger joint known as McDowall’s, named after its owner Cleo McDowall (John Amos), who thinks he can avoid a lawsuit with a more famous, similarly named fast-food restaurant since his “buns have no seeds.” Cleo has a daughter named Lisa (Shari Headley) who has the traits Akeem is looking for in a woman and he wants to get to know her better. However, Lisa is being pursued by Darryl Jenks (Eriq La Salle), whose father runs the company that makes Soul Glo, and Cleo approves of him. Yet, once Akeem and Lisa spend time together, it’s obvious to any regular movie-watcher what the result will be.
Coming To America is a mixed bag. There are some funny comedic moments, and the production design is impressive, but those elements are counterbalanced by the romance, which is too familiar and clichéd. This is the movie in which Murphy started to play multiple characters, and it is the barbershop scenes, where he plays both an older barber and an even older Jewish man that are the movie’s funniest. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to make it worth sitting through.