Remember when Eddie Murphy was funny? You know, before the fat suites and fart jokes. I guess many of you hadn’t even been born yet. Ronald Reagan was still president of these United States. CD’s were the latest thing. VHS was just catching on. The Rams were still in L.A., and it was the Cardinals that were playing in St. Louis. No one had ever heard about DVD, MP3, or Wi-fi. It was 1988 and Eddie Murphy was staring in Coming To America.
I’ve long considered this the last funny Eddie Murphy film. It just seems like he’d turned to gimmicks and quick physical humor. He got lazy, and you know what? So did I. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort to get my seat into those theater seats to see him clown around anymore. So journey with me back to a magical time when Murphy was still hungry and he let his talent shine.
Prince Akeem (Murphy) has come of age. He’s lived the good life where he has wanted for nothing. His Father (Jones) is king of their African country and all is good. He even has chicks to wipe his butt for him. Yet he yearns to discover the real world. And so with his right hand man Semmi (Hall) in tow, he seeks to sow his wild oats in America. From the moment he lands in Harlem, the fish out of water story begins. He finds a crummy apartment and has all of his belongings stolen. He’s in search of his future queen, but doesn’t want to win her over with his title. He pretends to be poor, and the two take a job at McDowell’s, a blatant restaurant rip-off of McDonalds. There he meets owner Cleo McDowell (Amos) and more importantly his lovely young daughter, Lisa (Headley). He tries to impress both father and daughter with mixed results while Semmi is trying to get out of living in such squalor. When the parents arrive on the scene to put an end to this nonsense, they discover their son’s in love.
It’s a pretty simple and contrived story, but this was back in the day when Murphy could steal the show. Shades of the future Murphy did begin here. He played multiple parts, mostly under tons of latex make-up. Arsenio Hall also plays several parts in the film. But the best part of it is the characters and the actors who play them. They’re all at the top of their game here, and the story soon becomes almost irrelevant to the chemistry and performances of John Amos, Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, and Madge Sinclair. This film was made entirely in the casting.
Unfortunately, Paramount’s “I Love The 80’s” series offers nothing in extras for anyone who might be a fan of the film. So, while this is a very funny and engaging movie, there’s no reason to buy it again. It might have served Paramount’s interests better to do this as a series of Blu-ray releases, offering them for the first time in high definition with cleaner source prints. Instead we get no effort for the 20 bucks we’re expected to shell out for a film you already own, if you’re a fan. And with this film, it’s already out in HD. Why pay for a bad standard DVD now?
Coming To America is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is another no-effort effort by Paramount on the I Love The 80’s series. Why not use the HD transfer from both the HD-DVD or the Blu-ray versions? Instead this is the problem riddled earlier DVD release repackaged. There’s plenty of print artifact, including scratches and dirt. I saw a better copy of this film from the HD Network a couple of years ago. You’re better off with that copy. Black levels are below average and colors are dull and washed out.
Again the Dolby Digital 5.1 track might as well have been in mono. There isn’t anything beyond the dialog to this film anyway. Don’t expect a very dynamic sound field. Dialog is fine, and really that’s all you need here. Again this is no different from the previous release.
I know I’ve been highly critical of this I Love The 80’s series by Paramount, but I think this one gets to me the most. It’s by far the best film in this run of the series. It’s also been available in HD for some time now. I guess I just don’t understand the point. Fans already have, if not this exact transfer, a better high definition version of the film. Who in their right mind is going to buy a bare bones version just because it has a funky pink logo that says I Love The 80’s? Someone needs to lose their job over this crappy collection of retreads. After watching this series I feel like “I’ve recently been put in charge of garbage”.