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