Coming to America (1988)

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John Landis directs Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Shari Headley in this romance where an African prince travels to Queens to find his.

Whisper it… but one of the biggest and most expensive comedy hits of the 1980s is not all that funny. Sure any bits in the barber shop, nightclub and the Black Awareness rally are hilarious but equally the majority of scenes, where Eddie and Arsenio are not also playing supporting characters in heavy prosthetics, are pretty much laugh free. Perhaps this is the earliest symptom of the once brilliant Murphy misjudging his popularity and forcing himself into lead comedy roles that intentionally lack punchlines rather than him finding serious projects (as he did effectively eventually in Dream Girls)… yet more importantly it somehow doesn’t really hobble the very charmingly old fashioned romance movie that envelopes the gaggier bits here. Landis and Murphy lean towards Golden Age Hollywood alchemy – the intention here is clearly to make a black Philadelphia Story or Roman Holiday. Intention achieved. From the gently spectacular credit sequence to the pomp and physicality of the dance number in the palace of Zamunda to Murphy’s incredibly loveable fish out of water to the living room farce finale… this is how they used to make them. An outstandingly lavish yet heartwarming affair with just enough marketable Murphy foulmouth schtick to keep the avid Axel Foley fan equally sated.

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