After over 30 years, a comedy classic is being continued: Whether Eddie Murphy and Co. in THE PRINCE OF ZAMUNDA 2 can be just as convincing as in the comedy hit by director John Landis, we reveal that in our review.
OT: Coming 2 America (USA 2021)
Near death, Zamunda’s King Jaffee Joffer (James Earl Jones) has only one wish: his kingdom should remain safe after his death. Because the neighboring, heavily militarized country of Nexdoria is ready to launch an attack if General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), who is willing to marry, doesn’t get her daughter. However, Zamunda’s Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) only has daughters, which, from a traditional perspective, weakens his (and therefore Zamunda’s) status enormously. However, King Jaffee has a glimmer of hope: Before Akeem met his wife (Shari Headley) during the trip to America with his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall), he unknowingly fathered an illegitimate son named Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler). Is there any possibility of training him to become heir to the throne and thus maintain the traditional royal line that is expected of Zamunda?
Same film, different countries, different fan debates: In the run-up to the release of “The Prince of Zamunda 2” there was a predominant topic of conversation among USA fans – synchronization. Dennis Schmidt-Foß (voices Chris Evans and Ryan Reynolds, among others) has been Eddie Murphy’s regular voice since 2007. His approach is a balancing act between the iconic, squeaky performance of the late, former Murphy spokesman Randolf Kronberg on the one hand, and Murphy’s real timbre on the other. This is largely accepted, but a small, loud fan base would rather see Kronberg mimicry. The great nostalgia factor of “The Prince of Zamunda” has recently led to a resurgence of these demands. Radio maker Christopher Karatsonyi once brought himself into the conversation as such a dubbing voice – and his Kronberg impersonation recently became a hot topic again on social media. Weighing up the pros and cons of this unsolicited application here would go beyond the scope – but the debate is relevant. It is feared that some USA film fans will no longer give “The Prince of Zamunda 2” with professional voice actor Schmidt-Foß a fair chance because they have zeroed in on Karatsonyi’s request.
Eddie Murphy returns as Prince Akeem.
Meanwhile, another nostalgic aspect provoked preliminary judgments among US audiences: Part 1 received an R rating in 1988, due, among other things, to harsh language and naked skin. The fact that the sequel “only” received a PG-13 caused severe disappointment among some Eddie Murphy fans. It would be narrow-minded to dismiss “The Prince of Zamunda 2” as weak just because there is less swearing and no bare breasts are shown. Because that’s never what “The Prince of Zamunda” was about: “The Prince of Zamunda” is the surprisingly heartfelt, almost fairytale-like, optimistic story of a young prince who, despite cold parents and a servant who pampers him, is humble and decides to go to Queens to travel to find a love based on intellect and mutual respect. It would be correspondingly absurd to criticize “The Prince of Zamunda 2” as “not rough enough” – and according to the FSK’s understanding, both films are equally “hard” anyway, as they are both rated for ages twelve and over. But regardless of whether it’s rated or dubbed, the film doesn’t deserve such prejudice. It manages to capture the spirit of its predecessor in broad strokes. The “we’re turning the plot inside out” trick of sending a young man with blue blood from America to Zamunda seems appealing at first glance to seem obvious. But Kenya Barris, who was responsible for the script (“black-ish”)Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield (who wrote the original) implement this charmingly and cleverly.
“But no matter whether it’s rated or dubbed, the film doesn’t deserve such prejudice. He succeeds in capturing the spirit of his predecessor in broad strokes.”
When “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle gets to know the kingdom of Zamunda, on the one hand it serves as a template for further gags like those in the intro of the original: Zamunda is a ridiculously wealthy country, but at the same time forever is again connected to nature in a pointed and surprising way. This leads to small, creative ideas, but at the same time serves to develop Lavelle’s character in an entertaining way. Where the original draws humor from Eddie Murphy’s embarrassment as Akeem responds to constant coddling, the sequel effectively relies on Lavelle’s conflicted reactions to create comedic friction. While we are sometimes encouraged to marvel at Zamunda along with Lavelle and giggle at exaggerated habits, every now and then an empathetic fish-out-of-water situational comedy prevails: when Lavelle, who grew up in rather poor circumstances in Queens, is confronted with tests of courage or struggles with reconciling his own identity with the sometimes wooden customs of the royal family, this is always structured in such a way that we can laugh at his occasional failures and at the same time cheer him on to get on the right track.
Fowler’s grounded, unobtrusive acting benefits the film enormously, as it makes Lavelle an inviting figure to identify with and grounds the film in such a way that it doesn’t degenerate into a farce despite the many oddball supporting characters. The writers and director do give credit to Craig Brewer (“Dolemite Is My Name”) Fans of the original again see scenes in which Murphy and Arsenio Hall embody shrill fringe characters under tons of make-up – but these moments happen more quickly than in the original. In a sequel in which Wesley Snipes, as a gun nut and ruler of a not-quite-enemy-but-also-not-friendly neighboring nation, takes over every scene with very fun overacting, anything else would be oversaturating.
See you again with old acquaintances and new faces.
Unfortunately, “The Prince of Zamunda 2” frays in the third act. No matter how comprehensible Lavelle’s journey is and the costumes by “Black Panther” designer Ruth E. Carter invite you to marvel, Akeem’s sketching creates narrative flaws: the hero of the first film In the second half of the film, he refuses to show long, progressive insights that he should have internalized long ago given the way we got to know him. The script doesn’t offer any convincing reasons for Akeem acting contrary to his nature – although this doesn’t detract from the humor in “The Prince of Zamunda 2”. A handful of unnecessarily nasty gags at the beginning and the cartoonish product placement tend to take the film out of the picture. However, this makes the story feel stretched out. It becomes noticeable that the characters would have put their conflicts aside long ago if those responsible hadn’t let the plot stall in order to continue to have bridging material for the stretches between the gags. Apart from that, the next sequel half-seriously announced by Murphy for 2037 is no longer a threat, but a promise.
“While we are sometimes encouraged to marvel at Zamunda along with Lavelle and giggle at exaggerated habits, every now and then an empathetic fish-out-of-water situational comedy prevails.”
Conclusion: An enjoyable reunion with Zamunda: Despite the constructed obtuseness of some characters, which slows down the narrative pleasure towards the end, “The Prince of Zamunda 2” is a fun, worthy successor to the audience favorite from 1988.
“The Prince of Zamunda 2” will be available to stream on Amazon Prime from March 5th.