5 Things That Don’t Make Sense About Coming To America

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming to America

Eddie Murphy’s career seems to be back on the up and up since his winning Saturday Night Live hosting gig and his Golden Globe nominated turn as real-life comedian Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name. A revisit to the actor’s heyday is on the horizon with an upcoming sequel to Coming to America, the 1988 comedy from director John Landis about the prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda who journeys to the States in search of his queen.

As we wait for Coming 2 America’s release, it brings back memories of the moments from the original that made us laugh… and a few that also left us confused. Not to say that these moments diminish the overall quality of Coming to America, but once you notice a few glaring logical errors and inconsistencies, it is hard not to forget them.

In case you are scratching your head over what in Coming to America could have left me scratching my head, look no further. I have five examples to prove that one of Eddie Murphy’s best films still falls short of perfect.

Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy as Semmi and Akeem in Coming to America

Akeem Avoids Recognition Almost Too Easily

Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy), in hopes to find a woman who will love him just for his personality, wishes to keep his royalty a secret, despite the fact that he and his friend and servant, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), are dressed in designer suits, fur, and gold jewelry when they first set foot on American soil (more accurately, the pavement of Queens, New York). Even so, it does not seem to register with anyone that this guy could very well be the heir to an entire nation.

Save one Zamunda native with whom he crosses paths at a basketball game, Akeem has no trouble avoiding recognition, but that scene in Coming to America alone, plus the moment when the prince spots his family photo at a museum while on a date with Lisa (Shari Headley), is enough evidence to me that his cover should have been blown much earlier, especially in a melting pot like New York that could be crawling with Zamundans. Furthermore, you would think that he might run into at least one American who would say, “Hey, haven’t I seen your face on money?” Speaking of which…

A one hundred pound note from Zamunda in Coming to America

Akeem’s Present-Day Face Is On Zamundan Currency

In any scene from Coming to America in which money from Zamunda is present, you can see Akeem’s face is imprinted on it. The concept of figures of royalty having their likeness placed on their nation’s currency is not a radical concept, of course, but it is quite remarkable that the prince’s present-day likeness is the image we see.

Now, it is also not uncommon for the images on banknotes to be updated as the people they profile age (if said person is still alive, of course), but Zamunda must have worked really fast to update every coin and rand in the country to match his appearance once Akeem turned 21. Not to mention, since he still has yet to inherit the throne, would it not make more sense for his father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones), or mother, Queen Aoelon (Madge Sinclair) to grace the notes, or even one of the royal family’s ancestors? Clearly, it is a whole different world in Zamunda.

Akeem shouts from his apartment's improbable balcony in Coming to America

Does The Landlord Give Akeem And Semmi The Wrong Room?

When Akeem requests the poorest room possible for he and Semmi at a low-rent Queens apartment building, the landlord (Frankie Faison) takes them to a room blocked by police caution tape that he uses some harsh language to describe before adding that a brick wall is blocking the view from its sole window. The room appears to be as repulsive as we were led to believe (to Semmi, at least), but the very next scene forces to me to question if it is the same room that he claimed.

Instead of the window facing a brick wall as the landlord mentioned, and as the initial tour did reveal, we see from the outside that the room has a view of the street and even a balcony, (well, fire escape, technically) from which Akeem shouts praises of America down to some very rude locals. I do not find it likely that any of their neighbors would have allowed him and Semmi to use their own fire escape, especially for this purpose, so unless this building has some Hogwarts-esque, shape-changing ability, it sounds to me like either the landlord exaggerated the severity of the room to meet Akeem’s wishes or the screenwriters made a flub.

Cleo McDowell (John Amos) and his copycat restaurant in Coming to America

Cleo McDowell Should Be Up To His Neck In Trademark Lawsuits

In hopes to get closer to Lisa, the woman he has fallen for, Akeem, with Semmi, goes to work for her father, Cleo McDowell (former Good Times star John Amos), whose self-named restaurant bears a striking resemblance to a certain popular fast food chain. In fact, everything from the company logo, menu items, and a scene when Mr. McDowell berates a man taking photos of the restaurant show signs that he wants his restaurant to be as popular as McDonald’s by coming dangerously close to imitating McDonald’s. But, is he really breaking any laws?

According to my research, it appears that Cleo McDowell is blatantly [guilty of trademark dilution](https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/dilution_(trademark), which is defined as using a certain mark or name similar enough to another recognizable trademark that could be mistaken for that original brand. He even explains to Akeem and Semmi, “They’re McDonald’s, I’m McDowell’s. They have the Golden Arches, I have the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I have the ‘Big Mick,’” as if that will help his case, but only makes his intentions more clear. Hopefully no one finds his personal copy of McDonald’s official company manual or he will really be in trouble.

Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy as the Dukes in Coming to America

Duke Brothers Aren’t Phased Their Donor Looks Like The Man Who Made Them Poor

There is a scene in Coming to America that pays tribute to one of Eddie Murphy’s previous hits, in which Akeem gives Semmi’s “pocket money” to two homeless men, who turn about to be former millionaire investing brokers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer Duke (Don Ameche) from the 1983 John Landis-directed film Trading Places. The brothers celebrate their newly found riches by personally thanking their donor, only it does not seem to cross their minds that the man who gave them hope to earn back their wealth bears a striking resemblance to one of the men who put them on the streets in the first place.

In Trading Places, the Dukes switch the lives of one of their employees, Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd), with street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) as part of a childish bet, but get the tables turned on them when Winthorpe and Valentine team up to send the old bastards into poverty. Perhaps they were distracted by that fat stack of cash, but I would have expected that, and would have found it hilarious if, the former millionaires might have asked other, “Say, didn’t that kid look a lot like Valentine?” I guess there just happen to be two individuals who look like Eddie Murphy in this supposed shared universe… which gives me a great idea for crossover scene in Coming 2 America: Akeem meets Billy Ray!

What do you think? Have these plot points in Coming to America left you confused as well, or do you have a perfectly logical explanation to put all of these concerns to bed? If so, please let me know in the comments and, in the meantime, be sure to check back for updates on this classic Eddie Murphy comedy’s highly anticipated sequel here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.