Coming to America (1988)

(On TV, September 2017) There’s an arc to Eddie Murphy’s career, which started in edgy adult comedy in the early eighties and now seems to be mired in cheap comedy for kids. In that arc, Coming to America seems to be in the sweet spot: accessible to the entire family, but still generally clever and controlled. You can see the seeds of latter bad-Murphy (such as playing two separate characters, or the accents, or the straightforward plotting) but everything seems under control most of the time. It helps that the supporting cast (Arsenio Hall, but also James Earl Jones) is on their game, and that the film doesn’t lose sight of its main goal. It adds up to a competent comedy, and one that hasn’t aged all that much since its release. The love story is standard, but the fish-out-of-water details of two royalty members choosing to look for love in lower-class Queens are amusing. Samuel L. Jackson makes an early appearance as a would-be robber. 

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