I Saw A Film!

With the impending sequel to this silly romantic comedy, one of the oldest popular movie tropes (going at least as far back as Valentino and White Sheik), Eddie Murphy brings his incalculable skills to bear on the story of a dissatisfied prince demanding a “grand tour” experience (like the European grand tour wealthy Americans used to send their children on as part of their university education) in America. Where, it turns out, he plans to seek a “love marriage” as the Indians like to say. He’s given 40 days. While we may view this concept with some skepticism remember the popularity of hyperbolic television bachelor and bachelorette shows that have literally turned the process into a weeding, pandering, and expensive gameshow experience. Can it be done? Sure if you have enough resources.

Murphy is always clever and I have to say seeing his smile and youth again gave me a warm feeling all over, he was such a big part of the comic culture of our day. His Playboy interview was one I read all of, the one with Yevtushenko, not so much. His stand up special, one of the first of its kind on cable was so funny we saw him as even better than Pryor (blasphemy, I know). And while Murphy plays the game for fun, and looks great doing it, he definitely strays from character, being both dorky foreigner who doesn’t understand a mop bucket but does understand rent, to being a slick NYC nightclub “operator” going through many short dates before the elderly wise men at the barber shop explain to him that to find the right woman he must appeal to her father. Once again revealing the westernized variation of the “arranged marriage”.

We’re given an early Wakandia, a somehow totally benevolent monarchy with imported Asian Elephants (African Elephants have never been domesticated, much bigger and much more ornery, though, keep in mind there was a North African elephant used for war by the ancients that no longer exists). We get an amazing floor show loaded with beautiful people and some stick fighting martial arts (I’m telling you it’s hard not to think of Black Panther here) soon enough we’re realizing our boy is in a marriage pact with a young beauty that he doesn’t want. And we’re off, they decide on Queens, not a travel agency. They also prefer bar-hopping to dating services (hey, it works, but the extreme ladies they run into (including a trans played by Arsenio) are clearly no one’s choice. But soon enough our hero overhears the working address of a lass he fancies (at a Black Awareness function) and so he stalks her ass to her job, and manages to finagle a job there. I can’t pick on this movie as unique for using stalking as a preferred romantic agent, it’s used constantly in romance films-I mean, all the time.

And here is where we meet my spiritual and socio-economic match, Louie Anderson as a fast food laborer. Louie represents the life I’ve lived better than any character in the film. He also had the best line, which paraphrased goes something like: How can we expect to compete for these ladies with these rich guys? He is pointing out the low-character, but wealthy boyfriend of Murphy’s love interest. Well, suffice it to say this is not Murphy’s problem, he’s also rich. So, Anderson’s blue-collar question remains unanswered. No one cares about the chubby fry cook servant of fast food owners. This color character however is the one the movie should be about, but probably never will be.

Sam L. Jackson steps in for a moment as a very believable daylight, shotgun robber that Murphy’s character gets to wipe out with his martial skills. A kind of ill advised quick edit win and the lady now loves Murphy. Now I know we’re supposed to accept that Murphy is hiding his wealth, but wealth, in no small way, provides confidence and even beauty. It’s also leisure time for hero skills.

I guess what I’m saying is I distrust feudal states and monarchs. And I feel like our love of wealth should not reach to familial inherited privileges. Even when Murphy’s prince drops some green on a couple of bums, it isn’t a route to changing a rigged system that favors Trumps. We could all benefit from more wealthy folks who were interested in helping level the playing field. Hopefully back in “Wakandia” the dissenters aren’t being strung up by their heels. We don’t know. But monarchs aren’t democracy, and even when the right girl shows up for the wedding the feeling is that she’s a gift from the great James Earl Jones. Frankly there are no lessons in this sort of story, and most of the laughs come from Murphy’s face as he responds with comic expertise to being sworn at or shown a mop bucket for the first time.

This is running free on prime, and a classic of Eddie Murphy’s oeuvre, but it’s weak stuff and could have been much more challenging. But I didn’t feel like Black Panther did much to change the narrative either.

3 thoughts on “Coming To America (1988)

    1. OH interesting! I was struck by the similarities, of course played for different purposes, but martial arts and gorgeous floor shows in the magically benevolent monarchy were definitely shared traits! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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