If you’re like many of us who have watched Coming to America a million times throughout your life, then you’ll be pleased to know that this Eddie Murphy masterpiece is currently streaming on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. Simply put, Coming to America is Eddie Murphy in his prime, and he has the box-office numbers to prove it. Though many romantic comedies from this era have failed to endure the test of time, Coming to America‘s inherent quirkiness and irreverence has shown us that in 2023, the film still has the same impact that it had 35 years ago upon its initial release.
Eddie Murphy’s classic Coming to America is streaming on Netflix.
Coming to America is your classic fish-out-of-water story, and takes us from the African nation of Zamunda to the streets of New York City. Eddie Murphy’s Akeem Joffer has grown tired of his pampered lifestyle of royalty and decadence, and is reluctant to participate in the arranged marriage his parents want him to follow through with at home. In an effort to meet his true soulmate, Akeem resolves to live in a run-down apartment in Queens with his long-time friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall).
Almost immediately, Akeem finds himself attracted to a woman named Lisa McDowell, who is an ideal woman in his mind. In an attempt to win her over, Akeem and Semmi end up working at a McDonald’s knockoff called McDowell’s, which is owned by Lisa’s father, Cleo. At this point in the film, we know that Eddie Murphy’s character comes from royalty, but Lisa is under the assumption that Akeem comes from a family of poor goat herders.
It wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without some sort of conflicting love interest, and this Eddie Murphy movie introduces us to Darryl Jenks, a wealthy young man in his own right. Jenks’ father owns a hair styling aid company named Soul Glo, and the marketing for this product is top-notch. If rom-coms aren’t your thing, that’s fine, but you’d be doing your self an incredible disservice if you don’t at the very least look up the Soul Glo commercials on YouTube, and attempt to hit those high falsetto notes.
Despite Jenks’ unexpected engagement announcement, Lisa starts dating Akeem, and it looks like things are going pretty well in this Eddie Murphy movie. But Semmi cannot stand living like a common person, and quickly reverts back to the pampered lifestyle he’s familiar with through the use of conspicuous consumption, much to the chagrin of Akeem, who donates all of his money to a couple of homeless men as a form of retaliation.
The conflict in this Eddie Murphy comes to a head when Lisa realizes that Akeem was lying about his modest upbringing, and it’s revealed that he’s actually an exceedingly wealthy prince from Zamunda. In you typical romantic comedy fashion, we find Lisa and Akeem at odds with one another, and we’re left wondering if they’ll be able to reconcile their differences, and if Akeem will be able to earn back Lisa’s trust after deceiving her about his identity.
Coming to America also introduced us to the idea of Eddie Murphy playing multiple roles in a single movie, a motif that would be present throughout the rest of his career. Not only does Murphy take on the lead role of Akeem, he also portrays a soul singer named Randy Watson, a barbershop owner named Clarence, and a barbershop customer named Saul.
Much like in 1996’s The Nutty Professor, and 1999’s Bowfinger, we see Eddie Murphy expertly switch from role to role in a way that’s hilarious on screen, but had to be absolutely exhausting to pull off while filming.
Though we’ve seen Mike Meyers and Tyler Perry take on multiple roles in their respective Austin Powers and Madea movies, we’ve got to give it to Eddie Murphy for popularizing the concept in the 80s.
Coming to America is one of those highly quotable movies that has so much staying power. Though this Eddie Murphy film only has a critical score of 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s worth noting that it’s a fan favorite, and has an audience score of 85 percent. In many ways, it’s a romantic comedy by the numbers, but it works the formula in a way that’s supremely well-executed through its subversive nature, and has an intimidating laugh-per-minute ratio compared to many of its contemporaries.
If you want to see Eddie Murphy at the top of his game, then Coming to America comes with strong recommendation.