Izzi’s son is a possible match for Meeka, but she wants no part of him, thereby failing to unite the two kingdoms. This is where Lavelle comes in. General Izzi has a daughter, Bopoto (Teyana Taylor), whose entrance in the film is nothing short of incredible. If Akeem had a male heir, he could marry her. After Baba (Arsenio Hall, again) reveals the prophecy of a male heir and Semmi corroborates it, Akeem drags Semmi back to Queens to pick up Lavelle. All the Judsons, including father figure Uncle Reem (Tracy Morgan), are willing to buy this strange man saying he’s Lavelle’s daddy once they realize how rich Zamunda is. Mary certainly remembers him. I can only imagine that, had this film been rated R instead of the punk-ass PG-13 it’s saddled with, this scene would have ended with a trip to “The Maury Show.”
Once Lavelle gets to Zamunda, “Coming 2 America” plays the original’s story by swapping the locations for its young hero. But it’s far less effective. Queens is a real place, and the neighborhood Akeem found himself in was full of characters, locales, and situations that would be familiar to Black viewers. Much of the comedy in “Coming to America” stemmed from Akeem’s role as the audience’s stand-in, navigating a world we were already familiar with and responding in a bemused, practically innocent fashion. Everything in this film’s Zamunda is primarily a figment of its screenwriters’ imagination, and as a result, much is lost in terms of relatable humor. Don’t get me wrong—I’d still move to Zamunda in a heartbeat despite its man-eating lions (who get a supporting role here)—but Lavelle is no Prince Akeem. Fowler has little of the sweetness or joy Murphy brought to his first visit to Queens. Lavelle and his family seem lifted from a Madea movie. This was shot at Tyler Perry Studios, so perhaps I’m not wrong.
There’s also bad blood between Lavelle and Meeka, who is rightfully pissed off that, after all her training and study, she’s being kicked to the curb in favor of some aimless new sibling she just met. You can see the eventual outcome of Meeka’s story arc coming from a mile away, but the movie still forces her to soften to Lavelle almost immediately and help him basically take her job. There’s a lot of surface-level “girl power” in “Coming 2 America,” but it’s so superficial that it’s a bit of an insult to Akeem’s daughters. When Meeka finally unleashes her full powers in an exciting battle scene, it gets usurped by the film’s crosscutting between her brother’s plotline.