Coming To America 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
COMING TO AMERICA has a particular spot in Hollywood history. After the film was released, and became a huge success, writer Art Buchwald sued the film company, claiming the story had been plagiarized from a story he had written. The highlight of the trial was when Paramount’s accountants provided paperwork showing that, though the film had made almost $300 million at the box office world-wide, by the studios definition of “net profit,” the film had yet to make money. Thankfully the judge saw through this and Buchwald settled for $900,000. If he needed money, perhaps he should have made friends with Prince Akeem.
In the country of Zamunda, his Royal Highness Prince Akeem (Murphy) is wakened, bathed and dressed each day by a trio of beautiful women. Today, he is going to meet his bride, for a marriage arranged by his parents (James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair). But Akeem not only doesn’t like this girl…he’s never met her. He proclaims that he would like to find his own wife and, with his friend and assistant Semmi (Hall) heads to New York City to seek his bride.
A true fish out of water story, COMING TO AMERICA can almost be seen as a companion piece to TRADING PLACES, with Murphy’s roles reversed. Here he is a wealthy and powerful man who chooses to hide his wealth (much to Semmi’s chagrin) and live modestly. This means taking a job at the local McDowell’s (one of the film’s funny and running gags is the battle between restaurant owner Cleo McDowell (the amazing and underappreciated John Amos) and McDonalds. It is there that Akeem meets Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) and decides to make her his bride. But will she fall in love with a minimum wage employee?
What makes this film so good is the comic timing of both Murphy and Hall. And not only do they star as the prince and his companion, they also appear throughout the film in various roles, from a local minister to barbers to an over aggressive woman! Murphy even shows up as an old Jewish man, a revelation that is saved for the end of the film and one which drew gasps when the film played in theatres.
The film also boasts a fine supporting crew of actors, including Eriq LaSalle, Frankie Faison, Clint Smith and a young Samuel L. Jackson. You may even spot the Duke brothers if you pay attention. The direction is fast and seamless and the costumes, especially for the Zaumndans, are spectacular.
That the film is so good is a testament to the talent involved. In a 1990 “Playboy” interview, Murphy revealed that Landis had held a grudge against him because Murphy was not supportive of Landis during his TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE trial. Landis had made four flops in a row when Murphy went to Paramount and asked them to let Landis direct. The studio did, reluctantly, to keep their star happy. However, there was much friction on the set and Murphy was later quoted as saying, “Vic Morrow has a better chance of working with John Landis than I do.” However, years later, when both were down on the lower rung, they did team up for BEVERLY HILLS COP 3.
Video: The film is presented in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio and has been transferred well. The many jeweled costumes of the Zamunda shine brightly, though the darker fabrics worn in New York – lots of jackets and fast food vests – are a little subdued.
Audio: The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds fine. This mostly a dialogue first film and the conversations come through loud and clear.
The extras here have been carried over from previous releases.
Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America (24:40): A well made featurette following the film from its inception to completion.
Fit for Akeem: The Costumes of “Coming to America” (18:05): A well spent look at the costumes for the film, one of its highlights.
Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker (12:55): The seven-time Oscar winning make-up genius shows how he worked his magic on this film.
Composing America: The Musical Talents of Niles Rodgers (11:09): A nice look at the famed musician and producer.
A Vintage Sit-Down with Eddie and Arsenio (5:38): A short clip with the two stars sharing memories about making the film.