TCL Movie guy, Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his take on Coming 2 America and Raya and the Last Dragon.
COMING 2 AMERICA (Amazon Prime)
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are back in their iconic roles Prince Akeem and Semmi in Coming 2 America. The movie kicks off in a big way with a massive party celebrating Akeem and Lisa’s 30th anniversary. The filmmakers pulled out all of the stops with nostalgia, humor, and plenty of cameos to win over the audience. Akeem learns that he has a long-lost son back in America from his days in Queens. Akeem finds his son, Levell, and informs him he is the rightful heir to the Zamunda throne even though Akeem already has three daughters. It’s up to Levell to learn the Zamunda culture if he wants to be prince.
It’s been thirty-three years since the first Coming to America, and audiences have been dying for a sequel since then. Eddie Murphy is one of the film’s producers and brought back original screenwriters Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, along with Kenya Barris (black-ish) to freshen it up. It’s great to see so many familiar faces in front of and behind the camera to make sure they were getting this sequel right for the fans.
This film is made for the fans, and they made the wise choice to not just made it a carbon copy rehash of the first film. There are plenty of flashbacks to bring you up to speed and we see plenty of returning characters like the barbershop guys and other side characters that Murphy and Hall play under heavy prosthetics.
The plot of Coming 2 America is fairly simple, but audiences are coming for laughs and that classic Eddie Murphy humor. There’s certainly a meta quality with its ode to the original while commenting on the state of American movies and the obsession with reboots/remakes.
Director Craig Brewer previously worked with Eddie Murphy on Netflix’s Dolemite is My Name and knows how to let his actors play around without dragging out this film longer than it needs to be. He’s got a big cast full of funny people, and it should give audiences what they’re looking for.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON (In theaters, and Disney+ Premier Access)
The latest Disney offering, Raya and the Last Dragon, is a dazzling visual feast even if the story may seem a bit familiar. Kelly Marie Tran provides the voice for our hero, Raya. She’s a spirited young woman nicknamed Dew Drop by her father, Benja, and is the Princess of Heart. Their world, Kumandra, is divided into different kingdoms named after parts of the dragon. Legend has it that the dragon population was wiped out by a plague, and all but one dragon survived. When the plague returns, Raya sets out to find, Sisu, the last dragon hoping they can collect the five coveted gem pieces to stop the plague and reunite the people of Kumandra.
Raya and the Last Dragon comes with all of the traditional hallmarks of a Disney animated classic. There’s the strong and independent princess, her animal sidekick, a broken family, honor, and culture. You can see Raya having the strength of Mulan while the film sets out to explore culture and mythology like we saw with Moana and Frozen.
While the overall plot and the structure to Raya and the Last Dragon may seem familiar, the film excels in so many different levels. Disney continues to wow me with how intricate the animation evolves with each new film. The attention to detail is so realistic I was taken aback with how lifelike a variety of the set pieces looked. The color palettes and textures rival any big CG driven blockbuster.
The whole film is gorgeous to revel in with how they brought a fantasy world to life while honoring Asian culture and tradition. Having this cast and the themes is a wonderful display of representation that is vitally needed in family entertainment.
Raya and the Last Dragon is full of adventure and peril keeping kids on the edge of their seat. The “fellowship of Drune butt-kickery” reminds us all that we need to trust one another and learn how our own individual strengths can come together for a united front.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS