On Coming to America (1988)

Book coverThis is one of my beautiful wife’s favorite movies, and now that the youngest is fourteen, we thought he was old enough. He’s good with swearing, but boobs in movies weird him out. He is definitely not a child of the 1980s, when many if not most films that a young man watched (comedies and action films) featured at least one set of breasts, no matter how briefly. So the youngest only made it a little way into the movie before heading off to his YouTube videos to learn how to be cool.

Aside: In the video from “American Ride” by Toby Keith, in 2009, a caricature of Trump appears. But we were talking about Eddie Murphy’s movie about a rich prince who comes to America to find his bride.

That’s basically the plot: An African prince, not happy with the arranged marriage planned for him, convinces his father to postpone the wedding so that he, Akeem, the prince played by Eddie Murphy, can go to America. The father, played by James Earl Jones, thinks it so that his son can “sow his royal oats,” but Akeem wants to find a woman who has not been trained from birth to serve him.

So Akeem and his friend/servant Semmi, played by Arsenio Hall, travel to America, New York specifically, and they end up in Queens (naturally). They get jobs at a local restaurant patterned after McDonalds, owned by Mr. McDowell played by John Amos, and Akeem falls for Lisa, Mr. McDowell’s daughter, so he and Semmi take a job there. Antics ensue, and when Semmi contacts the royal family of Zamunda, the whole entourage arrives just as Akeem is winning Lisa’s heart–but he wants her to love him for himself, not his royal riches.

The film was noted at the time for the number of roles Murphy and Hall played, from barbers and their patrons to women in the clubs where the prince and Semmi go to look for women. It’s a bit of an in-game to look for the characters played by each the first time you see it, I suppose. For me, that was a long time ago. The movie also tips the cap to Trading Places, the 1983 film where Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are reduced to poverty at the end–in this film, five years later, Akeem tucks a wad of cash into their hands, and they announce they’re back. Which would have made sense if you were an Eddie Murphy fan and had seen this film five years prior. I’m pretty sure I saw it long after.

The other actors in the film are noteworthy as well. Comedian Louis Anderson plays an employee of McDowell’s. Samuel L. Jackson tries to rob McDowell’s. Vondie Curtis-Hall has a bit role; in a couple of years, he would be a bad guy along with John Amos in Die Hard II. And so on.

So the film is quite up there in the Nogglestead pantheon. Not only is it one of my wife’s favorite comedies, but it also has several lines that we use as common allusions in fairly regular talk. Including:

  • Inclining head: Whatever you like.
    Said when one of us asks the other’s preference in places to eat or similar aesthetic decisions.
  • The first thing we have to do is get you out of these wet clothes.
    I won’t go on about when that’s said.

Also, I bought the girl a Sexual Chocolate t-shirt, but she is a proper woman of the community and does not wear it out of the house. I think it must be at the bottom of the drawer, as she does not wear it.

I guess the oldest thought it funny enough, but as I mentioned, the youngest did not watch it. Yet.

Now, I know you like to see pretty girls tucked under the fold here, gentle reader, but I looked through the IMDB listings of most of the players in the film, and this was the peak of many of their oeuvres. Except for Garcelle Beauvais, who was a rose petal bearer in the film early in her career, and she has been very active ever since.

Strangely, she is older than I am, but one would be hard-pressed to guess. She has maintained her beauty, and I probably started out with very little.

She has had quite a career in television starting when I stopped watching television; the only other film I have seen her in was Spider-Man: Homecoming. We did see her in a television ad or something since we’ve watched the film, which I don’t suspect impressed my boy(s), as we tend to see actors in a bunch of things when we see movies.

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