Coming to America is a 1988 Academy Award-nominated comedy film directed by John Landis. The screenplay was written by David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein, from a story by Eddie Murphy, who also stars in the film.
Akeem concocts a plan to travel to America to find a wife he can both love and respect. He and servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) arrive in Queens County, New York, and after several scrapes, find an apartment in a fictional slum, and begin working at a local restaurant called McDowell's, (the restaurateur's attempt to copy McDonald's), passing themselves off as students. When he first meets Akeem and Semmi, owner Mr. McDowell (John Amos) explains all the minute differences between his place and McDonald's, ending with the line, "They use the sesame seed bun. My buns have no seeds." The McDowell's restaurant is based on an actual McDonald's restaurant on Queens Boulevard.
Akeem falls in love with Lisa (Shari Headley), Mr. McDowell's daughter, who possesses the qualities the prince is looking for. The rest of the film centers on Akeem's attempts to win Lisa's hand in marriage, while adjusting to life in America and dodging his royal duties and prerogatives.
|Eddie Murphy|| Prince Akeem Joffer|
|Arsenio Hall|| Semmi|
|James Earl Jones||King Jaffe Joffer|
|John Amos||Cleo McDowell|
|Madge Sinclair||Queen Aoleon Joffer|
|Shari Headley||Lisa McDowell|
|Eriq La Salle||Darryl Jenks|
|Vanessa Bell Calloway||Imani Izzi|
|Allison Dean||Patrice McDowell|
|Jake Steinfeld||Cab Driver|
|Calvin Lockhart||Colonel Izzi|
|Samuel L. Jackson||Hold-Up Man|
|Vondie Curtis-Hall||Basketball Game Vendor|
|Don Ameche||Mortimer Duke|
|Ralph Bellamy||Randolph Duke|
|Garcelle Beauvais||Rose Bearer|
|Cuba Gooding, Jr.||Boy getting haircut in barbershop|
A young Alex Rodriguez appears briefly in the holdup scene in the restaurant.
Coming to America features Murphy and Arsenio Hall in several different roles, which following the success of this film became a Murphy film staple. Hall plays Reverend Brown, who introduces Randy Watson (Murphy) and his band Sexual Chocolate, who perform George Benson's song "Greatest Love of All" at the Black Awareness Rally. In the barbershop scenes, Murphy and Hall play the elderly barbers Clarence and Morris, who engage in a furious debate with Sweets about the boxing skills of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano rather than attending to Akeem's hair. The barber scene is especially notable because Murphy plays both Akeem and Clarence simultaneously, effectively giving himself a haircut. Murphy also plays the old Jewish man in the barbershop who calls Akeem, "Kunta Kinte," referring to the Roots character made famous by LeVar Burton; co-star John Amos played the adult Kunta Kinte later in the Roots series.
Famed South African chorus, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, sings Mbube during the opening sequence (the song is known as The Lion Sleeps Tonight in America). The group has gone on to record several different versions of Mbube; however, the version heard in Coming to America has not been released on its soundtrack or on CD as of 2006.
Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche reprise their roles as the Duke brothers from another Landis and Murphy collaboration, Trading Places. Randolph and Mortimer Duke lost their enormous fortunes in that film. In this film, the two men are now homeless and living on the streets. Akeem gives them a paper bag filled with money, which they gratefully accept and exclaim "We're Back!". A portion of the Trading Places score can be heard during the Bellamy-Ameche cameo.