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How Coming 2 America's Akeem Transformed Since The Original

After a year like 2020, you might be after a laugh with old friends. Fortunately, Amazon is here to oblige. It may have been filmed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 comedy Coming to America, is the breath of fresh air many might need right now, and that's a big reason director Craig Brewer wanted to pursue it at this time. People who saw the original in theaters or years later on VHS (yes, it's really been that long) will love seeing the sequel that contains so many references to the original from McDowell's still trying to avoid lawsuits from McDonald's to the return of the My-T Sharp barbers talking about who would win in boxing matches. 

By that same token, a lot has changed over the last 30+ years. Instead of copious discussions centering around Jheri curls, there are now characters using "on fleek" in conversation. In lieu of Akeem (Eddie Murphy) hailing a cab, he's now trying to flag down a Lyft driver with a familiar face. The world has changed a great deal in the last few decades, but in addition to updating some of the jokes, the sequel also made sure to make it clear that the characters themselves have lived rich, full lives between the two installments. 

No one is the same person when they're 21 compared to when they're 51, and that goes double for Akeem. The 1988 film left off with Akeem marrying Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) as they go off into a happily ever after, but just like with any relationship, the honeymoon phase isn't forever. They've had three daughters over the last 30 years, and things only get further complicated when Akeem discovers he has a long-lost son. It's in this revelation that you can see the biggest way Akeem has changed since the original Coming to America

Akeem is more like his father when Coming 2 America begins

In Coming to America, Akeem is idealistic. He doesn't want to partake in the arranged marriage set up by his parents; he wants to find a woman he truly cares for and who loves him for more than just his wealth and power. He tricks his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) into letting him travel to the United States, and eventually, his dad allows him to subvert tradition and marry for love rather than politics. 

Decades later, Akeem wishes he had a son because Zamunda law states that a woman cannot be ruler, and he only has girls as children. His wish comes true when he learns of an illegitimate son he had with a woman when he first came to America in the 1980s, and he sets out to turn this child into the future king, much to the chagrin of his wife and daughters. 

When he was younger, Akeem had no problems questioning tradition. The concept of arranged marriage didn't make sense to him, so he set out to forge his own path, even if it meant upsetting his father. In Coming 2 America, Akeem is more set in his ways. His father tells him he must have a son to protect the future of Zamunda, and instead of questioning the law that forbids women from taking the throne, he just goes along with it because that's the way things have always been done. It doesn't even occur to him initially that his eldest daughter, Meeka (KiKi Layne), is perfectly primed to take over as ruler, and he'd rather have the inexperienced Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) take his place instead. 

Becoming more rigid in one's ways isn't unique to Akeem. Researchers have found that all people tend to become more rigid in their belief systems as they age. As written in Psychology Today, "Normative values (tradition and religiosity) tended to get more important with age and were most important for the older adults." You can't expect someone to completely change their belief system all at once, and it's clear Akeem still has much to learn. Luckily, he has people in his life who are still willing to challenge him and help him see he doesn't have to let the past control him.