A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coming to America is a 1988 comedy in which Eddie Murphy is a prince in an African nation who goes to America for true love instead of agreeing to an arranged marriage. Akeem is shown in a pool with three topless female servants, getting his body washed, including his penis. In addition to this, brief female nudity (buttocks). Akeem and his father talk about how they have sex with their maidservants. In a montage of undesirable women in a single's bar, women binge drink shots, talk about sexual desire and prowess, and a trans woman is treated as a punchline. At a basketball game, the sister of Akeem's love interest reaches underneath Akeem's jacket; strongly implied masturbation. Profanity, including "f--k," often used, and also "motherf---er." A man tries to commit armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant, fires his rifle into the ceiling, then is stopped by Akeem, who wields a mopstick. Characters drink.
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What's the story?
COMING TO AMERICA centers on pampered African Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), heir to the throne and fabulous riches. He's reached marriageable age, and his parents have found him a suitable bride. But Akeem wants a woman who loves him for what he is, not what he has, and he travels to America with his valet Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to find his soul mate. He finds one in the person of Lisa (Shari Headley), the daughter of a Queens restaurateur whose jealous boyfriend is the scion of a chain of African American hair products called Soul-Glo. Akeem doesn't tell Lisa who he is; he pretends to be a lowly fast-food worker. Will he be able to come clean about his identity and face his father (James Earl Jones) after running away from his responsibilities?
Is it any good?
Despite some sexist and racist quirks, COMING TO AMERICA comes through as a funny trip back to the comedy stylings of 1988. Everything about the film is fairly predictable. Lisa and Akeem get together in the most standard boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl-in-the-end way possible.
The movie has its moments -- Murphy and Hall play multiple roles in the movie, and certainly Murphy was in his prime. Some sexist and lurid overtones are cringe-worthy, but it's small potatoes compared to the fat-suited Murphy of more recent times. While women are often shown as sex objects or submissive servants, the female lead is hardworking and good at her job, and doesn't get taken in by the manipulative behavior of the men around her. As the queen, Akeem's mother doesn't stand idly by when her husband makes bad decisions. Akeem wants to learn how to be responsible for himself. African Americans run countries, own businesses, and, in some of the funniest scenes in the movie, Murphy and Arsenio Hall parody aspects of African American culture, such as barber shops and religious functions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of women in society -- what's your view? Do you think it's something to joke about like they do in this movie?
How does the movie explore the idea of making one's own way in the world without relying on others? How do Akeem, Lisa, and Cleo make this choice in the movie?
What aspects of the movie have held up, and what seems dated?
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