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Coming to America (4K UHD + Digital Steelbook)

Other // R // December 8, 2020
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted December 15, 2020 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Directed by John Landis in 1988, Coming To America begins in the fictional African country of Zamunda, ruled by King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) and his loyal Queen Aoleon (Madge Sinclair). They have one son together, Akeem (Eddie Murphy), and soon he is to be wed by way of an arranged marriage. While his bride to be certainly is beautiful, he's unimpressed by the fact that she really has no personality of her own, having been groomed since birth to want to do whatever he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Unhappy by this lot in life, he talks his father into letting him go to America, with his trusty servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in tow.


While the king believes Akeem's trip is just a way for him to ‘sew his wild oats' before getting hitched, the reality is that he's actually hoping to find true love. And what better part of America to find a future queen than…. Queens! Soon enough, Akeem and Sammi have shacked up in low rent apartment and kinda-sorta befriended the two old barbers that work below them (played by Murphy and Hall), and the cranky old Jewish man (Murphy again, under a lot of makeup) who hangs out in their shop. When Akeem gets a job at McDowell's, a very familiar looking fast food joint, owned by Cleo McDowell (John Amos), he soon finds himself falling for his boss' beautiful daughter, Lisa (Shari Headley). The only problem? Well, clearly Jaffe will not approve of this, and Cleo isn't too happy either, hoping his daughter will stick it out with arrogant boyfriend Daryl Jenks (Eriq La Salle), because he's got money.


A fairly atypical romantic comedy that also works as a fish out of water story, Coming To America may not offer any real surprises in terms of how its narrative plays out, but it's pretty funny regardless. Cinematic comfort food, if you will, a movie that doesn't ask much of its audience and gives nothing in return except for good entertainment. It's unlikely to make you think or cause you to reevaluate your life in any sort of meaningful way, but it doesn't need to do that to work. Landis paces the film well enough to keep our attention throughout and the jokes come at a steady enough pace that we're laughing on a pretty consistent basis. Production values are quite good (the makeup jobs used to turn Murphy and Hall into some of the supporting characters that they play throughout the movie are genuinely impressive) and the movie has a pretty bouncy score that complements the both the comedic elements as well as the romantic elements quite well.


Of course, it's the cast that really makes the biggest impact here. Murphy is great in the lead, his Akeem is kind and charming but also very funny. He's got that grin on his face for a good chunk of the movie that is a bit infectious, and the movie is a great Launchpad for his comedic timing. He and Hall, who is also a lot of fun here, have great chemistry together and are generally just a lot of fun to watch. Of course, James Earl Jones is the perfect choice to play the king, his instantly recognizable voice letting us know that his character means business as soon as we hear him speak. Madge Sinclair is very good as the kindly queen, John Amos is pretty fun as the bumbling father and Shari Headley nothing less than charming as the female lead. Supporting work from some pretty recognizable actors is also worth pointing out, as we get fun cameos here from Louie Anderson, Samuel L. Jackson, Calvin Lockhart and a very young Cuba Gooding Jr. as well.


The UHD

Video:

Coming To America arrives on 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer features Dolby Vison and HDR10 enhancement and it offers quite a nice, and very noticeable, upgrade over the previous Blu-ray edition, also from Paramount. Colors look fantastic here, really putting the past editions to shame in that regard, looking very bold and bright but at the same time still looking very natural. There's also a substantial increase in depth, detail and texture evident throughout pretty much every frame of the picture. Skin tones look really good here as well, and black levels are nice and strong. You'll not only notice all the little details in the costuming during the scenes that take place in Zamunda, but you'll also notice all the grit and grime in the guys' Queens apartment and plenty of little details in the McDowell's restaurant scenes as well. At the same time, thankfully this always looks nice and filmic, showing no evidence of DNR or edge enhancement, while the healthy bit rate ensures that compression artifacts are never an issue.


Sound:

The main audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, though lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo options are also provided in French and German. Subtitles are offered in English, English SDH, French and German. The DTS-HD track is a strong one, with plenty of noticeable surround activity present throughout the movie, from the busy restaurant scenes to the ceremonial dance bits to the scenes where the guys are just out on the street. Rear channels are used effectively for the score and effects with most of the dialogue upfront. Levels are balanced nicely and the track is free of any hiss or distortion, it all sounds very good.


Extras:

Those who own past releases will recognize each and every one of the supplements on the disc, there's nothing new here. Prince-ipal Photography: The Coming Together Of America is a twenty-four-minute piece that details the history of the production, from how it started as a simple idea that Murphy came up with to the casting of the picture, racial issues, some of the themes that it deals with, how everyone got along on set, locations and more. Fit For Akeem: The Costumes Of Coming To America is an eighteen-minute segment that, as you'd assume from the title, goes over the costuming featured in the picture, some of which is quite ornate. Character Building: The Many Faces Of Rick Baker spends thirteen-minute putting the makeup artist extraordinaire's work under the microscope, while the eleven-minute Composing America: The Musical Talents Of Nile Rodgers looks at the contributions brought to the table by the man who composed the film's score. The five-minute A Vintage Sit-Down with Eddie & Arsenio is an amusing promotional featurette in which the two actors talk about their characters and what it was like working with one another. It's quite funny, if not super in-depth.


Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film's original theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, menus and chapter selection options.


As this is a combo pack release we also get a standard Blu-ray disc included inside that includes the same extras as are found on the UHD. Also bundled inside the slick steelbook packaging is an insert with a code that can be redeemed for a digital download of the movie.


Final Thoughts:

Coming To America is a pretty charming picture, with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall both bringing their A-game to the production and a fine supporting cast helping out in front of the camera as well. Paramount's 4k UHD release is a good one, giving the feature a great upgrade in terms of audio and picture quality over what we've seen before. The lack of any new extras will disappoint some, but the steelbook packaging will appeal to those who collect them. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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