Coming to America
|Coming to America|
Theatrical release poster illustrated by Drew Struzan.
|Directed by||John Landis|
|Produced by||George Folsey, Jr.
Robert D. Wachs
|Story by||Eddie Murphy|
|Music by||Nile Rodgers|
|Editing by||Malcolm Campbell
George Folsey, Jr.
|Studio||Eddie Murphy Productions|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||June 29, 1988|
|Running time||117 minutes|
Coming to America is a 1988 comedy film directed by John Landis. The screenplay was written by David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein based on a story originally created by and starring Eddie Murphy as an African prince who comes to the United States in hopes of finding a woman he can marry.
Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the prince and heir to the throne of a fictitious, wealthy African country called Zamunda, is discontented with being pampered all his life. The final straw comes when his parents, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) and Queen Aeoleon (Madge Sinclair), present him with a bride-to-be, Imani Izzi (Vanessa Bell), whom he has never met and who is trained to obey his every command. Seeing that Imani is too subservient and offers nothing for his intellect, Akeem concocts a plan to travel to the United States to find an independent-minded wife he can both love and respect and who accepts him for himself, not his status. He and his friend and personal aide, Semmi (Arsenio Hall) arrive in Queens, a borough of New York City, because according to Akeem, "What better place to find a queen than the city of Queens?" They rent a run-down apartment in the neighborhood of Long Island City, pass themselves off as poor foreign students, and begin working at a local fast food restaurant called McDowell's, an attempt to copy McDonald's by restaurateur Cleo McDowell (John Amos).
Akeem falls in love with McDowell's daughter, Lisa (Shari Headley), who possesses the qualities the prince is looking for. The rest of the film centers on Akeem attempts to win Lisa's hand in marriage, which is complicated by her obnoxious and lazy boyfriend Darrell (Eriq La Salle), the "Soul Glo" (a product similar to Afro Sheen) heir. Although Akeem thrives on working hard and seeing how commoners live, Semmi is not comfortable with the life of a poor man. When Akeem donates their travel money to the homeless Randolph and Mortimer Duke (characters in the previous Eddie Murphy film Trading Places), Semmi transmits a plea to King Joffer for more financial help. This causes the Zamundan royal couple to travel to the United States and reveal themselves to the McDowells.
McDowell is ecstatic that his daughter has attracted the interest of a prince, but Lisa becomes angry and confused as to why Akeem lied to her about his identity, as he tried to convince her he was a simple goat herder from Zamunda and not the prince. She refuses to marry Akeem even after he offers to renounce his throne, and he returns to Zamunda with a broken heart, resigned to marry the woman chosen for him by his parents. On the way to the airport, King Joffer remarks that Akeem cannot marry Lisa anyway because of "tradition," and defending himself by saying "Who am I to change it?" Queen Aoleon responds curtly, "I thought you were the King."
At the final scene's wedding procession, Akeem waits dejectedly at the altar as his bride-to-be makes her way down the aisle, but when he lifts the veil to kiss her, he finds Lisa instead of his arranged bride. They ride off happily in a carriage after the ceremony to the cheers of Zamundans. Witnessing such splendor, Lisa is impressed that Akeem would have given it up just for her. Akeem proposes that he can make his abdication official, but Lisa playfully declines and decides to become royalty instead.
- Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem Joffer: The prince of Zamunda.
- Arsenio Hall as Semmi: Akeem's friend.
- James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer: Akeem's father and King of Zamunda.
- John Amos as Cleo McDowell: Akeem's employer.
- Madge Sinclair as Queen Aoleon: Akeem's mother.
- Shari Headley as Lisa McDowell: Cleo's daughter and Akeem's romantic interest.
- Paul Bates as Oha: A royal servant.
- Eriq La Salle as Darryl Jenks: Lisa's boyfriend.
The cast also includes: Frankie Faison as Akeem's landlord in Queens; Vanessa Bell as Imani Izzi, Akeem's arranged wife, and Calvin Lockhart as Colonel Izzi, her father; Louie Anderson as Maurice, a McDowell's employee; Allison Dean as Patrice McDowell, Cleo's daughter and Lisa's sister; Samuel L. Jackson as a robber; Vondie Curtis-Hall as Basketball game vendor; Garcelle Beauvais as a rose bearer; and Clint Smith as Sweets. Cuba Gooding, Jr. made his film debut as a barber shop customer. Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy reprise their roles as, respectively, Mortimer Duke and Randolph Duke from Landis' 1983 Murphy-starring comedy film Trading Places. A segment of the Trading Places score can be heard during their scene. The Duke's limo driver from that film also cameos as the driver of Akeem and Semmi's limo.
Coming to America features Murphy and Hall in several different roles, which following the success of this film, became a Murphy staple. Hall plays Reverend Brown, who introduces Randy Watson (Murphy). Murphy and Hall play elderly barbers Clarence and Morris respectively, who engage in debate with Saul, the old Jewish man (Murphy). Hall also plays a woman (credited as Extremely Ugly Girl) who flirts with Akeem and Semmi.
Coming to America reunited star Eddie Murphy with director John Landis. The two had previously worked together on the comedy hit Trading Places (1983); however, Landis later recalled the differences in working with Murphy on the two movies: "The guy on Trading Places was young and full of energy and curious and funny and fresh and great. The guy on Coming to America was the pig of the world... But I still think he's wonderful in the movie." Despite the experience, Landis and Murphy collaborated again six years later on Beverly Hills Cop III.
South African chorus Ladysmith Black Mambazo sings Mbube during the opening sequence (the song also known as The Lion Sleeps Tonight). The group has gone on to record several different versions of Mbube; however, the version heard in Coming to America had not been released on its soundtrack or on CD as of 2006.
In the film, the restaurant is owned by Cleo McDowell (John Amos) and based in Queens, New York. It is under investigation from the McDonald's Corporation for allegedly copying their franchise. At one point, McDowell confronts a photographer shooting outside the restaurant, who McDowell believes is working to gather evidence for McDonald's. The logos and typeface are extremely similar, including the names of the dishes: the "Big Mac" becomes the "Big Mc" - Mr. McDowell explains, "They both contain two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions. But they use a sesame seed bun. My buns have no seeds." McDowell, in describing the differences between his logo and McDonald's, explains, "They got the Golden Arches, mine the Golden Arcs." Later in the film, when McDowell is first confronted by King Jaffe Joffer, he is seen reading a McDonald's Operation Manual.
Because of the name similarity, the film's producers had to obtain legal permission from McDonald's in advance before they could actually use the name "McDowell's." During production, the owner of a nearby McDonald's restaurant actually did threaten a lawsuit, not knowing this was a movie. The location of the restaurant is 85-07 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, Queens, as specified accurately in the movie. The actual building itself is the location of a Wendy's restaurant. It was temporarily closed during the filming of the movie.
Box office 
Released on June 29, 1988, by Paramount Pictures in the United States, it was a commercial box-office success, both domestically and worldwide. The film grossed $128,152,301 at the domestic box office. It was the highest earning film that year for the studio and the third-highest grossing film at the United States box office.
The film was nominated for two Oscars: Best Costume Design by Deborah Nadoolman Landis and Best Makeup by Rick Baker, who designed the makeup effects for both Murphy's and Arsenio Hall's multiple supporting characters. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 68% "fresh" based on reviews from 37 critics.
The film was the subject of the Buchwald v. Paramount civil suit, which the humorist Art Buchwald filed in 1990 against the film's producers on the grounds the film's idea was stolen from a 1982 script that Paramount had optioned from Buchwald. Buchwald won the breach of contract action and the court ordered monetary damages. The parties later settled the case out-of-court prior to an appeal going to trial.
In the retrospective interviews included on the 2007 DVD release of Coming to America, John Landis and screenwriters Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield make no mention of Art Buchwald's lawsuit, and maintain the film's story originated with Eddie Murphy, with Blaustein and Sheffield writing the screenplay from Murphy's 25-page treatment. In an interview filmed around the time of the film's theatrical release, and included on the DVD, Murphy himself claims he came up with the idea for the movie while on tour. According to Murphy, the film was originally titled The Quest. Blaustein and Sheffield renamed it The Zamuda Project (named for writer/comedian Bob Zmuda; Landis renamed the titular country "Zamunda" to make it sound more African).
In Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan's 2008 book John Landis, Landis is quoted as saying Art Buchwald's case against Paramount was "without merit," going on to state:
I preface this by saying that I don't know Art Buchwald, and I have nothing against him. I should point out that for all of the media attention to that case, no one ever mentions Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, the men who actually wrote the script! Every movie I have been involved with that was a big hit had people suing the studio saying it was their idea. We live in a very litigious society. You can sue anybody for anything here.— John Landis , quoted in John Landis, 2008
Landis also provided the following response as to why Buchwald's lawsuit received more attention in the press than other similar lawsuits:
Well, because it was Art Buchwald! He is an old East Coast media darling. The other lawsuits came from less famous people. I remember on Animal House, there were four or five lawsuits. And Universal just settled them, as that was cheaper than fighting and even prevailing! Art Buchwald is not only East Coast, he's also a newspaperman. The press is going to take his side. The irony of that case is that the only people that [sic] his lawsuit benefited were Eddie Murphy and me because it forced Paramount to open their books.— John Landis , quoted in John Landis, 2008
|Coming to America: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Singles from Coming to America|
The soundtrack to the film was released on LP, cassette and CD. The song "Come into My Life" by Laura Branigan and Joe Esposito was released as a single.
- Side A
- "Coming to America" — The System (3:49)
- "Better Late Than Never" — The Cover Girls (4:02)
- "All Dressed Up (Ready to Hit the Town)" — Chico DeBarge (4:50)
- "I Like It Like That" — Michael Rodgers[disambiguation needed] (4:01)
- "That's the Way It Is" — Mel & Kim (3:25)
- Side B
- "Addicted to You" — LeVert (3:54)
- "Comin' Correct" — J.J. Fad (3:56)
- "Livin' the Good Life" — Sister Sledge (3:46)
- "Transparent" — Nona Hendryx (3:50)
- "Come into My Life" — Laura Branigan & Joe Esposito (4:39)
Television pilot 
A television pilot of a weekly sitcom version of the film was produced for CBS, following the film's success, starring Tommy Davidson as Prince Tariq, and Paul Bates reprising his role as Oha. The pilot went unsold, but was televised on July 4, 1989 as part of the CBS Summer Playhouse pilot anthology series.
Martin Lawrence is reportedly developing[when?] a remake; Back to Africa has a similar storyline as the original, but told "in reverse". The film tells the story of a working-class man from Queens, New York (Lawrence) who learns he is the heir to the throne of an African country.
- "Coming to America (1988)". Box Office Mojo.
- Daniel Carlson (5). "Is it Just Me, or Does Every Woman in New York Have a Severe Emotional Problem?". pajiba.com. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
- Randy Watson is introduced as having played "Joe the Policeman" in the "What's Going Down" episode of That's My Mama.[verification needed]
- "The Collider Interview: John Landis, Part II". Collider. February 9, 2005. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
- "Coming to America Filming Locations". movielocationsguide.com. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Coming to America (1988) - Trivia - IMDb
- Roelke, John (2004-09-13). "McDowell's from Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, Now a Wendy's". about.com. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Easton, Nina (1988-07-26). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Rabbit' and 'America' Battle for Dollars". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Easton, Nina J. (1989-01-05). "Roger Rabbit' Hops to Box-Office Top; 'Coming to America' Hits 2nd". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Coming to America". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- "1988 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- Benson, Sheila (1988-06-29). "MOVIE REVIEW Spare Fare in Eddie Murphy's `America'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- Canby, Vincent (1988-06-29). "Review/Film; African Prince in Queens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Coming to America". Rotten Tomatoes.
- Thane Rosenbaum wrote, "In 1995, the syndicated columnist Art Buchwald prevailed after a seven-year legal battle against Paramount Pictures, claiming that he had submitted the idea, and the original script, for the Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America, without ever being properly compensated or acknowledged for his efforts. The trial court eventually agreed with Buchwald, although the damage award that he received was considerably less than what he had sought, and even less than what he eventually had to pay out in legal fees." --The Myth of Moral Justice, page 182.
- John Landis, cited in John Landis by Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan. (2008, M Press), pp.125-126
- John Landis, cited in John Landis by Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan. (2008, M Press), p.126
- "`Outtakes' - `Coming To America' The TV Series". Deseret News. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
- Juan (February 19, 2009). "Martin Lawrence To Re-Make 'Coming To America' In Reverse?". Highbrid Nation. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Coming to America|
- Coming to America at the Internet Movie Database
- Coming to America at Box Office Mojo
- Coming to America at Rotten Tomatoes
- Filming Locations