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Coming To America – 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Along with the 35th anniversary of Trading Places, Paramount has also released a 30th-anniversary edition of Coming to America, another massive hit for Eddie Murphy. Unfortunately, much like the new Trading Places release, there’s nothing new to be found in this release, including everything on the technical side of the release. That’s a shame, as Coming to America is often looked at as one of Murphy’s best films for a good reason. It has plenty of classic hysterical moments, in addition to an ultimately sweet story that plays up a romantic angle, amid the fish out of water concept.

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Film:

This time around, Murphy stars as Akeem, the prince of Zamunda. He lives a pampered life but wishes to do more with himself. Instead of marrying his arranged bride-to-be, Akeem decides to travel to New York City to find someone who could actually fall in love with him. Aided by his best friend and personal aide, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), the two encounter a variety of characters and experience many of the wild things that come with living in the big city.

While not as narratively complex and lacking in the sort of social commentary that made Trading Places a film as sly as it was smart, there’s a lot to like about Coming to America’s simplicity. The romantic-comedy aspect works well enough because Murphy has nice chemistry with Shari Headley’s Lisa, and Eriq La Salle is a fun foil as Darryl, Lisa’s jerky boyfriend. At the same time, plenty of comedic joy comes from an element that would become a staple in his future films – the portrayal of multiple characters thanks to Rick Baker’s makeup effects.

Both Murphy and Hall end up playing several other characters in the film, very elaborately designed in some cases and allow a great outlet for a lot of comedic energy not present in Murphy’s mostly straight-laced Akeem. That’s not to say Murphy isn’t funny as the title character, as enough scenarios present themselves to give him some terrific reaction moments. However, between Randy Wilson and the barbershop characters, there’s plenty of hilarious material to watch.

There’s also a great supporting cast and numerous cameos to watch out for. James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair add a great amount of authority as the king and queen of Zamunda. John Amos is hilarious as Lisa’s father Cleo McDowell, the owner of a McDonald’s knock-off restaurant. Then you have Frankie Faison, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, and even a great nod to Trading Places to enjoy. Again, despite an easy story to track, there’s plenty of fun to experience.

All of this in mind, there was trouble between Murphy and director John Landis. While the two got along well for Trading PlacesComing to America found Murphy at a time when he was the funniest man on the planet and Landis was coming off of a few box office busts. The two did not get along so much as a result, despite working together once again on Beverly Hills Cop III (which also has some strange production stories). It mattered little here, however, as Coming to America was a huge hit at the box office.

Whatever issues there may have been in making this film, Coming to America holds onto to its reputation for good reason. It’s a sweet movie with the right amount of edge thanks to Murphy and Hall’s commitment to going to the extreme with their bonus characters. There are a lot of good laughs throughout and the film serves as a fine product of its time, showing off New York (specifically Queens) in the late 1980s. So the only thing left to say is: where’s the spoon?

 

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Sadly, there’s no remaster present for this edition of Coming to America. This release is sourced from the same master used for the 2007 release, which means it has little to offer to impress in this day of 4K UHDs and re-releases. With all that in mind, the image detail is good enough. Natural film grain is present, but there is still enough to admire in the level of detail present. The early scenes set in Zamunda do a lot with color and detail, which is nice to see, even if it’s not the film looking its best.

Depth: The spacing of the characters never registers as flat. Dimensionality is clear enough for this to work.

Black Levels: Shadows and black levels are only so deep, but they don’t ruin the experience by any means. Very minimal crushing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are presented decently enough, with a lot of the strongest moments coming from the costumes and scenery found in Zamunda. Even when the characters arrive in Queens, there’s plenty to take in when it comes to all the various outfits that emphasize the 80s of it all.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures register well enough. A fresh scan of the film would have made this element stand out more, but for what it is, this is fine. At least the Soul Glow comes through.

Noise/Artifacts: Some digital noise in places, but nothing major.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossy Dolby Digital track comes up pretty lacking for anyone expecting more. It’s a sign of Paramount having no desire to put any real effort in a new release for this film. However, compared to Trading Places, the various musical elements come through just a bit better to make this the stronger of the two regarding audio tracks.

Low-Frequency Extension: The film has a little pickup when it comes to the LFE channel thanks to the use of African drums.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s not much reach to be found in all of this. The center channel gets the most to work with, while the other channels do what they can to create the appropriate atmosphere.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.

 

Extras:

All of the same extras that have been around since the special edition DVD release are back.

Features Include:

  • Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America (SD, 24:39) – A good look at the making of the film.
  • Fit for Akeem: The Costumes of Coming to America (SD, 18:05) – A look at the wardrobe creation for the film.
  • Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker (SD, 12:55) – The make-up designs for the film are given a good look.
  • Composing America: The Musical Talents of Nile Rodgers (SD, 11:09) – A closer look at the film’s music.
  • A Vintage Sit-Down with Eddie & Arsenio (SD, 5:38) – An interview from 1989.
  • Photo Gallery (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:46)
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

Coming to America ranks pretty high for me when it comes to Eddie Murphy’s best films. This Blu-ray is disappointing due to Paramount’s refusal to put in more effort on one of their hits for one of the premier stars of his day. Still, the film looks and sounds decent enough, and the standard def extra features are good enough for those who haven’t already seen them in the previous releases. This release is more a repackaging than anything, but it’s good enough if you don’t already own the film.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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