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30 years later, ‘Coming to America’ still Eddie Murphy’s best work

Here are five things you didn't know about the comedy classic on its 30th anniversary.
Published Jul. 2, 2018|Updated Jul. 2, 2018

Let's be honest: Even after three decades, Coming to America has held up better than any Eddie Murphy movie of the '80s.

Oh sure, you're already screaming "What about Beverly Hills Cop or 48 Hours?!?" Both are indeed classics – and both are sullied somewhat by their themes and language. (And both are diminished by their simply awful sequels.)

No, it's Coming to America that still somehow seems to be just as funny today as it as back on June 29, 1988. The story of a crown prince in Africa coming to the United States to find a bride is a simple story. But Murphy is surrounded by amazing co-stars, a legendary comedy director (John Landis), a great script and an endless supply of memorable lines and laughs.

Critics sadly don't agree with this argument. Coming to America holds only a 67 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, many predictably bemoaning the lack of an original script.

But heck, it was all worth it JUST for the scene where Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche revive their roles as the Duke brothers from Trading Places. (Another movie the critics "should have" hated for the script, right?)

Here are five things you probably didn't know about Coming to America on its 30th anniversary.

1. The movie was nominated for two Oscars: best costume design by Deborah Nadoolman and best makeup by the legendary Rick Baker, who handled all the multiple characters played by Murphy and Arsenio Hall. (This would be the first film where Murphy experimented with playing multiple roles.)

2. The infamous "McDowell's" restaurant where Akeem and Semmi work was actually a Wendy's restaurant that was closed for renovation at the time. The McDowell's vs. McDonald's sideplot was approved by the McDonald's corporate office, but apparently the news didn't reach some area managers, who threw a fit when they saw the fast-food homage.

3. Much of the engagement party dance in Zamunda is actually a speeded up version of the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance, which John Landis also directed.

4. Cuba Gooding Jr. made his first big-screen appearance in Coming to America as the boy getting a haircut. The scene, however, was shortened. Gooding was supposed to say he couldn't pay for the haircut to which the barber responded by cutting out a patch of his hair. It ended up – no pun intended – on the cutting room floor.

5. As "unoriginal" as the script was, it didn't stop columnist Art Buchwald from suing the studio and claiming the script idea was his. Buchwald won and ultimately was reportedly paid $900,000.



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