Coming to America (1988) is a romance/comedy starring Eddie Murphy and a
supporting role from Arsenio Hall, each of whom played four different roles in
the film. Murphy is the prince of an imaginary African nation, and meets his
arranged bride on his 21st birthday. She has been raised since birth to be his
bride, and has been carefully trained to think what he thinks, like what he
likes, etc. He is not pleased, so he convinces the King (James Earl Jones) to
let him take a trip and sow his royal oats in Queens, New York, where he intends
to meet a woman who will "arouse his mind as well as his loins." Arsenio Hall
goes along as his servant.
After a predictably futile search in bars, he finds the girl of his dreams,
the daughter of a fast food entrepreneur. The prince takes a job as custodian in
the restaurant, but finds he must compete with a rich brat whom she has been
seeing. The prince wants her to fall in love with him while thinking he is poor,
but Arsenio keeps doing things that threaten to ruin their poverty charade, like
remodeling their slum apartment.
Basically, this is a Cinderella story, and female lead Shari Headly was
perfect in the role. Eddie Murphy played the prince role seriously, or as
seriously as he could, given the plot, and it worked for him. It was a relief
not to see the same old crude character he often plays. Nearly every living
black actor of any merit was part of the supporting cast. Arsenio won several
awards and nominations, and even my ol' hero, Samuel L., had a cameo as a holdup
This film works either as a comedy or as a romance, which probably explains
the wide appeal that generated $289M worldwide.
If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to
explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by
our definition, a
C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs
and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:
It is really on the C+/B borderline, with 60% positive
reviews and $125 million domestic gross. If that represented the
consensus of its contemporary critics, it would be a B-, but
contemporaneous reviews were actually quite negative.