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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Landis
Cast:
Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Eriq La Salle, Samuel L. Jackson
Writing Credits:
Eddie Murphy (story), David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein

Synopsis:
In this modern-day fairy tale, Eddie Murphy stars as a wealthy and pampered African prince who comes to America in search of a bride. His destination, of course, is Queens, New York. Accompanied by his closest companion (Arsenio Hall), the Prince quickly finds a job, new friends, new digs, new enemies, and more trouble than he ever imagined. Coming To America is a hysterical fable with Murphy and Hall playing hilarious multiple roles with the help of astounding makeup effects.

Box Office:
Budget
$28 million.
Domestic Gross
$128.152 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Portuguese

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 6/5/2007

Bonus:
• “Prince-Ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America” Featurette
• “Fit for Akeen: The Costumes of Coming to America” Featurette
• “Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker” Featurette
• “Composing America: The Musical Talents of Niles Rodgers” Featurette
• “A Vintage Sit-Down With Eddie and Arsenio”
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Coming To America: Special Collector's Edition (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 25, 2007)

After Eddie Murphy became an enormous movie star, his ego started to get the best of him. That meant a series of flicks in which he presented himself more and more as some sort of slick hero, a trend that took us away from the rough-hewn charm that made him famous. In 1988’s Coming to America, Murphy goes even farther: he casts himself as a virile African prince.

In Coming, Murphy plays young Prince Akeem of Zamunda as he reaches his 21st birthday. On this day, he meets his preordained bride-to-be, but Akeem displays no excitement. Indeed, Akeem tires of his pampered position and wishes for something different. He wants an independent woman and a life with more freedom.

King Jaffe (James Earl Jones) just thinks Akeem wants to get some out-of-town loving, so he grants a delay of 40 days before the royal wedding occurs. However, Akeem plans to find a bride on his own, so he sets out for New York with his pal Semmi (Arsenio Hall). After many misfires, he meets educated, sophisticated Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) at a black awareness rally. Akeem falls for her, and the rest of the movie follows his attempts to woo her.

Coming reunited Murphy with director John Landis, the man behind 1983’s Trading Places, the actor’s second big hit. Coming snared Murphy and Landis another box office success, but it fell short of the amusement found in Places. I wouldn’t call that flick a classic, as it ran too long and went down too many dead ends. Nonetheless, it consistently entertained and demonstrated an easy charm largely absent from Coming.

In no way would I describe Coming as a dud, and compared to the Murphy efforts that followed for much of the next decade, it looks pretty good. However, that falls into “faint praise” territory, as it doesn’t take much to seem funny compared to crap like Harlem Nights and Beverly Hills Cop III. Coming betters those clunkers, but it falls short of Murphy’s earlier successes.

Some of the problems come from Murphy’s ego. The flick presents an indulgent fantasy with Murphy as pampered royalty. Maybe I shouldn’t knock Murphy for his decision to play a prince. After all, it’s not like he’s the first actor to take on such a role. However, the problem stems from Murphy’s attitude, as he really seems to believe the hype. Sure, Akeem comes across as a man of the people and tries to fit in with commoners, but Murphy’s arrogance remains in place.

Much of Coming suffers from excessive length and additional indulgence. At 116 minutes, it seems too long for a light comedy such as this, and too many scenes plod along past the point of no return. For instance, the African dance sequence at the betrothal ceremony runs forever without much purpose, and other bits like the “McDowell’s vs. McDonald’s” scene drag. We get the gag without so much explanation; the excessive discussion robs the piece of its effectiveness, and it’s not alone.

Other parts of the flick come across as little more than barely connected skits and chances for Murphy and Hall to play various characters. They don lots of makeup to portray various Americans, and these bits wear thin before too long. Some of them work – the barbershop guys get the movie’s best laughs – but we find too many of them. The gimmick gets old, and the fact that so few of the scenes make sense within the story doesn’t help.

Again, I wouldn’t call Coming to America a bad flick. It presents a little charm along with a smattering of funny bits such as one memorable cameo I won’t mention so I won’t ruin the surprise. However, its mix of arrogance and self-indulgence makes it less successful than it should be. This is mediocre Murphy.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for a little tag from the barbershop guys. Oh, and also look for some future stars on display, as Cuba Gooding Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson pop up in minor roles.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Coming to America appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That’s one change from the original release from 1999, but don’t expect miracles, as the new transfer still seemed pretty lackluster.

Sharpness remained erratic. Actually, the movie usually displayed decent definition, as the majority of the flick offered acceptable delineation. However, many shots came across as less concise than I’d like, and I thought that too many scenes were a little soft. At least this transfer came without jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared minor. Source flaws also caused very few problems. I noticed a couple of specks but that was it.

Colors were erratic as well. At their best, the tones appeared pretty lively, and the various settings offered a broad set of hues. However, at times the colors could be rather mushy and runny, so they lacked consistency. Blacks were a little too dark, and shadows tended to appear somewhat dense as well. Since the new transfer was cleaner than its predecessor, I thought it was an improvement, but it wasn’t a huge jump in quality.

Ups and downs also came from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Coming to America. For the most part, the soundfield offered a subdued affair. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and the movie featured a decent sense of ambience. Not too many scenes broadened beyond that general feeling of environment, though a few sequences opened up matters slightly. For instance, the fireworks at the bridal ceremony used the rear speakers well. Otherwise, this was a subdued mix.

Audio quality varied from good to iffy. Speech demonstrated the most notable concerns, as some lines could sound a bit edgy and rough. Most of the dialogue seemed reasonably natural, though. Music showed good clarity and range; bass response seemed quite warms for the score and songs. Effects seemed clear and accurate, though they also never stood out as especially memorable. Overall, the mix was fine for its age but not any better than that.

How did the picture and sound of this 2007 America compare to those from the original 1999 DVD? I thought both discs offered virtually identical audio, but the new 16X9 transfer seemed cleaner than its predecessor. Unfortunately, it still came across as somewhat soft and mushy. The 2007 DVD looked a little better but not much.

In addition to the new anamorphic transfer, this Special Collector’s Edition of America brings in extras not found on the original disc. Most of these come from some featurettes. Prince-Ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America runs 24 minutes, 38 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from director John Landis, screenwriters David Sheffield and Barry Blaustein, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman, and producer/editor George Folsey, Jr. “Coming” covers the movie’s origins and development, story, cast and characters, performances and improvisation, the “McDowell’s” elements, the movie’s legacy, and a few other details.

On the negative side, the absence of any actors – especially Eddie Murphy – comes as a disappointment. Otherwise, this turns into a pretty good program. It gives us a rudimentary but interesting overview of some production elements and even hints at conflict between Murphy and Landis. No, it’s not a warts and all piece, but given the fluffiness usually found in this sort of retrospective, even a smidgen of that sort of material livens up the show. “Coming” works reasonably well.

Next comes Fit for Akeen: The Costumes of Coming to America. The 18-minute and four-second show features Nadoolman, Landis, and Folsey. We get lots of information here about the clothes design for the film. Nadoolman comes to the forefront and gives us great insights into her choices and influences. This becomes a much more detailed program than usual and presents quite a few useful tidbits.

For the 12-minute and 54-second Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker, we hear from Landis, Folsey, and makeup artist Rick Baker. We learn about all of Baker’s makeups for the film and the ways his work influenced characters. Again, the absence of the actors makes the show incomplete, but Landis and Baker provide more than enough good notes to create an informative piece.

Composing America: The Musical Talents of Nile Rodgers lasts 11 minutes and eight seconds. It features Landis, Sheffield, composer Nile Rodgers, Rolling Stone magazine’s David Wild, and Billboard magazine’s Gail Mitchell. “Composing” looks at Rodgers’ influences and goals for his score as well as time pressures placed on the composer. This is another productive program, as it gives us a lot of solid details related to the music. I could live without the praise from the journalists, though. It’s unnecessary and gets some of the facts wrong, such as when Wild claims Rodgers produced Madonna’s first album; he worked with her for Like A Virgin, album number two. (And Wild’s assertion that this might be her best work is patently nuts, though that’s a matter of opinion, I suppose.)

An archival piece arrives via A Vintage Sit-Down With Eddie and Arsenio. This five-minute and 36-second clip came from sessions to publicize the flick. This doesn’t include much concrete information, but it makes up for that with fun. It’s amusing to see the two comedians interact and riff off each other, though Hall gets in the best bits.

In addition to the flick’s trailer, we find a Photo Gallery. It includes 54 shots, most of which show movie images; we get a few snaps from behind the scenes but not many. These are eminently forgettable.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Dreamgirls, Norbit, and other Eddie Murphy efforts. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area.

Eddie Murphy’s last genuine hit for almost a decade, Coming to America hasn’t aged particularly well. Too long and too inconsistent, the movie has some laughs but not enough to make it a winner. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio along with a decent set of extras. This is an average release for an average movie.

If you don’t own the old America DVD and want one, I’d recommend this 2007 Special Collector’s Edition. It’s not a great release, but it improves on its predecessor. If you already have the original disc, though, matters become more complicated. Though not extensive, the extras are generally interesting, so that adds value. Audio remains the same, though, and picture quality offers only minor improvements. It’s a low priced release, so it won’t hurt too much to get it, but don’t expect a great package.

To rate this film visit the original review of COMING TO AMERICA

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