By Lady Mofe:
It may sound weird that I am reviewing a movie released in 1988, but every 90s child would absolutely understand my nostalgic attachment to this blockbuster. For those of us who haven’t watched the movie in a long time, let me jog your memory, and if not at all, here’s the story:
Akeem, a prince from a place in Africa called Zamunda,has just turned 21 and is duty-bound to have a bride. As tradition demands, his parents have selected a beautiful bride for him, and the marriage rites have begun with a loud proclamation, “let the courtship begin!”. However, Akeem convinces his parents that he would like to go see the world first before settling into the throes of marriage, when secretly he wants to go off to find a bride of his liking.
Akeem sets off for the United States of America, determined to find a wife who will “stimulate his intellect as well as his loins” (was it just me or did you roll your eyes as well?). On a journey full of hilarious but challenging experiences, alongside his servant (& friend) Sanmi, they take New York literally, but as paupers living in one of the most dilapidated areas of the State.
The film ends with Akeem finding the woman of his dreams, almost losing her to tradition, and of course, the happily-ever-after climax that has been feeding fantasies of love before I was born (applause for Disney).
This movie is one of the few Hollywood releases where the narrative of Africa as a dark continent is conspicuously absent! There was no reference to diseases, war, or poverty; in fact, it was quite the opposite. Africans in this film were wealthy, generous, and kind. Yes, they were royalty you might say, but from scenes where everyone was invited to the palace to celebrate with the prince, I daresay everyone looked well-fed. The economy was certainly not in turmoil.
Of course we had the stereotypical growl-like soundtrack, and a few giraffes and elephants in the courtyard, but that in itself is just a small fish to fry compared to other Hollywood-in-Africa movies like District 9 and the superstitious Nigerian arms-dealer, Obesandjo (the nerve of them!).
Accent. It was interesting that accent-wise, for the first time, I didn’t feel offended. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall didn’t sound like they were trying too hard to suppress their American accent by sounding like a potato lump was stuck in their throat. They were natural, and I say the same for other members of the cast in the Africa-scenes. It was refreshing to hear.
What would I have done differently if I had been on the production crew for Coming to America? As a script writer, I would have taken the liberty to educate America (and the whole world) that Africa is not a country, but a continent. You would be amazed at how many people around the world are not really aware of this.
A: “Where did you go for holidays this year?”
B: “Oh I went to Africa”
A: “Duh, I went to Europe, care to tell me which country?”
I think I would have inserted a scene or two where Akeem says “my friend, there are many countries in Africa, and my Zamunda is one of them.”
Let me re-emphasise that there was nothing condescending about Africa as a continent in this film. If anything, it was celebratory of our cultures, colourful style, and beauty. It’s no wonder nothing of the sort has come out of Hollywood again. It was in praise of Africa. Heck, we took the American girl back to base to become our bride. Coming to America is a movie i’ll watch in another ten years and still have a good laugh. Well done Eddie Murphy.
If you would like me to write more film reviews, tell me what you thought about “Coming to America” in comments
P.S. The 80’s style dressing was giving me life. I need restraints not to look like i stepped back in time in 2016 lol