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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Musical > Coming To America – Special Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD-Video)

Coming To America – Special Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD-Video)


Picture: B-/B/C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Towards the end of his first big run as a top box office star, Eddie Murphy’s films were money in the bank.  Despite some friction, John Landis was a director who kept turning out the hits.  Murphy came up with the initial idea (followed by the David Sheffield/Barry W. Blaustein) for Coming To America, though it became the subject of a huge lawsuit filed by Art Buchwald.  Still, it was a hit and that became a separate issue.


Murphy plays a royal prince who is interested in finding a mate and with his best friend (Arsenio Hall) decides by a spin of a globe to go to New York.  The result is not just a regular culture clash, but a multi-layered one.  In a surprise move, the film actually shows a humorous and controversial split within the black community that is shocking by politically correct standards, even if it was not deemed that way at the time.  Some could even consider it racist in some way, but it now becomes a time capsule of a certain sense of banality (and marginalization of) African Americans in the 1980s.  That does not make it Spike Lee’s School Daze, but it is further into that territory than this critic had first considered at the time.


Yes, the film has some funny moments, as well as some musical numbers that fit and a score by Nile Rodgers that the film is partly built on.  This is a larger production than its simple story would otherwise allow, but it all rolls along and never becomes overproduced.  In some other ways, it has dated and some of the jokes are not as funny as they once were, but it is worth a look, especially if you have not seen it though Landis had lost his distinction as a director at this point.


The 1.85 X 1 image on all three formats comes from a source that needs some work.  The DVD-Video is softer than it should be for a new edition, the 1080p Blu-ray is not that much better shockingly and though the 1080p HD-DVD looks the best, this is by default.  Though the film had two Directors of Cinematography (Sol Negrin and Woody Omens), the image coheres well enough, but something is not right with this source and though the shots were not spectacular in 35mm, they looked a bit better than this at best.  All are odd overall.


The film was also issued in Dolby A-type analog sound, but all three versions have Dolby Digital 5.1 upgrades, with the HD-DVD dubbed “Plus” not any better.  Maybe they should have went back to Nile Rodgers’ music masters, clean up the sound stems and tried for a better sound upgrade, but the sound is even poorer than the picture overall.  The combination disappoints in all versions, though the HD-DVD is bets by default.


Extras include Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together of America, Fit For Akeem: The Costumes of Coming To America, Character Building: The Many Faces of Rick Baker, Composing America: The Musical Talents of Nile Rodgers, vintage interviews with Murphy & Hall from 1989, the original theatrical trailer and stills.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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