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Coming to America(1988)
Coming to America casts comedian Eddie Murphy as pampered African prince Akeem, who rebels against an arranged marriage and heads to America to find a new bride. Murphy's regal father (James Earl Jones) agrees to allow the prince 40 days to roam the U.S., sending the prince's faithful retainer Semmi (Arsenio Hall) along to make sure nothing untoward happens. To avoid fortune hunters, Prince Akeem conceals his true identity and gets a "Joe job" at a fast-food restaurant.
For more about Coming to America and the Coming to America Blu-ray release, see Coming to America Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 3, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, John Amos, James Earl Jones, Shari Headley, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Director: John Landis (I)
» See full cast & crew
Coming to America Blu-ray Review
This classic Eddie Murphy Comedy looks and sounds good on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 3, 2009
Life, real life, the thing that we have been denied for far too long!
One of the slogans from the advertising campaign for the recent film Norbit claimed it showed viewers "Eddie Murphy, 'as you love to see him!'" Well, that may be true for those unfortunate enough to have only seen the comedian in his slate of films of a more recent vintage, including The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Meet Dave. Instead, it may be strongly argued that Coming to America is how film fans really love to see Eddie Murphy, featuring the actor both in his prime and in arguably his best role. The 1988 Comedy may be dated and a complete product of its era, but it holds up extremely well more than twenty years after its initial release and remains as lively, energetic, and funny as ever. It also features Murphy playing a few additional minor characters to satisfy fans who crave to see the actor in multiple roles, but don't look for him in a fat suit and a dress in this one.
In the fictional African nation of Zamunda, Prince Akeem (Murphy) has just turned 21 -- and is set to be married to a woman he's never met. He lives a pampered life of the utmost luxury with servants assisting him in his everyday activities -- hygiene and use of the men's room included. When Akeem protests his marriage, his father, the King of Zamunda (James Earl Jones, The Hunt For Red October), insists he follow tradition and marry the girl who has been groomed to serve Akeem since her birth. Akeem convinces his father to allow him to travel to America for what amounts to a 40-day bachelor party, but Akeem secretly has other plans: he's coming to America to find his one true love, and where else will a Prince find his Princess but Queens, New York. Accompanied by his personal trainer and close friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem rents a rat-infested room, wanting to live like an average American. Akeem soon happens to meet Lisa (Shari Headley) at a Black Awareness fundraiser, and quickly becomes infatuated. He discovers that she works at her father's fast-food restaurant, McDowell's, and Akeem and Semmi find themselves minimum-wage work at the same restaurant. Akeem turns on the charms but is seemingly thwarted when he learns that Lisa is dating a hair care product model named Darryl (Eriq La Salle). Can Akeem win the girl, convince his parents that true love matters more than tradition, and live happily ever after?
Coming to America screams "1980s." It's a blast from the past to be sure, and as such it may be viewed today with plenty of unintentional (and quite often intentional) humor. Most of the "unintentional" laughs come not from a flaky script or poor acting, but from the extreme hairstyles or goofy retro-outfits seen throughout the film. Thankfully, the meat of the film -- the scripted, intentional humor -- is presented with plenty of gusto, gut-busting dialogue, and comedic timing that make the film one of the better pure comedies of its decade. Each primary cast member delivers an inspired performance, each demonstrating a solid grasp of the characters they portray and the film's sense of humor. Eddie Murphy leads the charge; his portrayal of Prince Akeem is excellent, playing the character with charm, wit, and self-assuredness that sells the character perfectly. James Earl Jones is rightfully cast as his caring but overbearing father, who only wants what is best for his son but cannot come to see that what he, and tradition, deem the best for him may not be what Akeem's heart truly desires. Jones brings a towering, imposing stature and a well-meaning but not-always-right heart and soul to the role. John Amos' character, Cleo McDowell, arguably steals the show. Like Jones' character, McDowell only wants what is best for his daughter, but cannot see past the dollar signs and life of luxury another man could provide for her, dismissing her true feelings in favor of the promise of wealth and security. The film also enjoys fine performances from Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, and a young Samuel L. Jackson in a minor role.
Coming to America is a happily-ever-after sort of film where the plot is perhaps too convenient. Every character serves a very distinct purpose, and each primary character shares a counterpart that sees the world the same way they do. For example, Darryl looks at women the way Akeem is expected to, viewing them as prizes and believing they should be completely subservient to men. He's the perfect foil to Murphy's character. Lisa finds herself in the same situation as Akeem, forced into a pending marriage she doesn't want. Likewise, Lisa's father demands of his daughter that she follow his rules, leaving true love by the wayside in favor of convenience and riches. The movie is too perfectly set-up, a one-in-a-million chance meeting between two people in the same predicament, but a bit of over-dramatization and happenstance may be forgiven in favor of some movie magic and a mostly charming and funny story.
Coming to America Blu-ray, Video Quality
Coming to America travels to Blu-ray with a rather nice looking 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. The film's opening title sequence inspires little confidence in the transfer, appearing hazy, clumpy, undefined, and dull as the camera moves over some obvious matte paintings to establish the African setting. Once the film gets going, the image appears nice and stable, with an acceptable level of detail in clothing, faces, objects, and buildings. The transfer truly sparkles in its display of the many adornments worn by Akeem and his family. Colors are bright but not warm or overblown, looking natural and pleasing, if not just the slightest bit faded. Whites can be a bit overblown in a few shots. The film retains a layer of grain that adds to the image a pleasant theatrical quality, and there are minimal print blemishes. Black levels and flesh tones are sufficiently good. The primary hindrance here is the slightly dull appearance of colors and a level of fine detail that, too, is fine but slightly lacking, but otherwise, and even for an older catalogue title, Coming to America looks good on Blu-ray.
Coming to America Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount brings Coming to America to Blu-ray with no lossless soundtrack; only a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is available on this release. Nevertheless, the audio is spacious and pleasing, despite its lossy presentation. The opening tribal chanting piece is balanced and effectively placed across the front three speakers. Musical reproduction is the highlight of the track, be it tribal, orchestral, or popular. It's not all that crisp or well-defined as one might hope for or expect from a superior lossless soundtrack, but it always flows cleanly and pleasingly through the front channels and enjoys some low frequency support when the situation calls for it. Sound effects are nicely presented, but lack oomph and realism; the clanking of sticks during Akeem's training session with Semmi or the blasting of fireworks early in the film lacks the expected acoustic sparkle. Some moments of the track do send a few discrete effects to the back channels, but the majority of the mix is front-heavy and lacking in a truly immersive sound experience. Dialogue is sufficiently delivered. All in all, this track is hardly disappointing, but it lacks the crispness a lossless mix may provide.
Coming to America Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Coming to America features several extra features. Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America (480p, 24:39) features interviews with cast and crew discussing how the film came about, beginning with nothing more than a idea from star Eddie Murphy, and the building of the remainder of the story. The piece moves on to look at the racial make-up of the film, the fairy-tale nature of the story, the casting and performances of the primaries, the film's connection to Trading Places, and its legacy. Fit For Akeem: The Costumes of 'Coming to America' (480p, 18:05) takes an extended look at the lavish wardrobe as seen in the film. Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker (480p, 12:55) looks at the extensive work of the renowned make-up artist on the film, the same man who would later work with Murphy in Norbit. Composing America: The Musical Talents of Nile Rodgers (480p, 11:09) examines in closer detail the work and legacy of the famed musician both in this film and beyond. A Vintage Sit-Down With Eddie & Arsenio (480p, 5:38) features the stars reminiscing about the movie in a piece from 1989. This grouping of extras is concluded with a photo gallery and the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:46).
Coming to America Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Coming to America is classic Eddie Murphy and a fairly funny movie to boot. The story is obscenely simple and utterly predictable, and the characters are so alike that the story seems to be more of a one-in-a-billion long shot than based in any kind of reality, but that's what movie magic is all about. The script is breezy and fun, the performances spot-on, and the dated visuals easy to poke fun at, but they never hinder what is an otherwise solid movie. Paramount's Blu-ray release could have been better, but all things considered, it's not bad. It's one of the earlier releases from the studio, and as such features only a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but it always gets the job done. Likewise, the visuals are solid but not spectacular, but the movie has doubtlessly never looked better at home. A nice selection of bonus materials rounds out the disc. Coming to America is a candidate for the old "double-dip" somewhere down the road, but it will likely be a while before the film is re-released with new supplements and a lossless soundtrack. Until then, this disc is a worthy addition to most any Blu-ray collection. Recommended.
Coming to America: Other Editions
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