Coming 2 America sees the return of almost the entire original cast of characters, but how on Earth are the elderly barbershop guys still around? In the 1980s and 1990s, Eddie Murphy was on fire, turning out hit movie after hit movie. That of course came after his initial rocket ride to fame on Saturday Night Live, and then with hilarious stand-up comedy specials like Raw and Delirious. While Murphy has a lot of great titles on his resume, 1988’s Coming to America is definitely one of the most beloved.
Murphy stars as Akeem, prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda. Akeem rejects plans to be placed in an arranged marriage, and heads to New York City, looking to find true love in Queens. Akeem hides his vast wealth and royal status, hoping to connect with someone entirely due to who he is, not what he has. He found that in Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley), and the two later wed back in Zamunda.
Now, after more than 30 years, Coming 2 America is on the way to Amazon Prime in March. With few exceptions, almost all the memorable characters from 1988 are back. Bizarrely though, that includes the three employees and one regular customer always found inside the My-T-Sharp barbershop, despite them all clearly being senior citizens 33 years ago.
The four My-T-Sharp barbershop characters in Coming to America, all set to return for the sequel, are barbers Clarence, Morris, and Sweets, plus their seemingly always present regular customer Saul, an old Jewish man. Clarence and Saul are played by Eddie Murphy, while Morris is played by Arsenio Hall, and Sweets is played by Clint Smith. The ages of the four men aren’t specified, but the topics they discuss, such as their conversation revolving around the greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all time, help to date them somewhat. Clarence’s favorite appears to be Joe Louis, whose heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, and who retired for good in 1951, already nearly 40 years before Coming to America takes place.
Clarence also just plain looks like a man who’s nearing Medicare eligibility. He’s almost bald, and what hair he has left is completely gray. He’s also got noticeably heavy lines and wrinkles on his face. At a glance, Saul and Morris look even older than Clarence, Saul significantly so, with Sweets possibly being a little younger than Clarence. Saul’s voice also sounds kind of old and strained. When asked about the return of the My-T-Sharp characters in Coming 2 America, Murphy and Hall have suggested they’re now in their late 80s to early 90s. For that timeline to work though, that means Saul, the oldest looking of the four, was at most in his early 60s in the first film, and that just doesn’t make sense, especially since they’re reminiscing about boxing fights from nearly 40 years prior.
While Clarence, Morris, Sweets, and Saul of My-T-Sharp do look older and heavier in footage released from Coming 2 America so far, they don’t really look different enough to explain away the length of time elapsed since the first film. Obviously, some people do age better than others, but it’s been 33 years. If one looks at a picture of most people 33 years apart, the differences in appearance are likely to be pretty stark. Despite their odd aging though, at the same time, it’s almost impossible to imagine Murphy and Hall having made a sequel without their inclusion. They’re fan favorites, and provide some of the funniest exchanges in what’s overall a gut-busting film.
More importantly though, they – especially Clarence – end up being more important to Coming to America‘s plot than simple joke-machines. While they playfully bust his chops, the four men present at My-T-Sharp are some of the first people to be truly welcoming and friendly to Akeem after his arrival in New York City, and Clarence specifically gives Akeem and Semmi valuable advice on life in America and how the dating world is different there than what he’s used to. Sure, some of it seems outdated, but Akeem does find his true love in the end, and there’s something to be said for that. It’s also telling that when Akeem’s parents come to town, they first encounter Clarence and friends, with them almost serving as metaphorical gatekeepers between Akeem’s life in Zamunda and his American identity.
With all of the above in mind, the easiest solution seems clear, and it’s far from one foreign to movies, even ones not outright based in supernatural lore. Clarence, Morris, Sweets, and Saul are immortal. What’s more, it’s quite possible they’re guardian angel figures, charged with looking out for Akeem’s best interests and giving him nudges in the right direction. If that were true, it would beg the question of what exactly they do when Akeem isn’t there, which is most of the time. If they’re wise immortals, and possibly angels, who’s to say Akeem is the only troubled person in New York City that they’ve helped steer toward a positive future?
Positing that the My-T-Sharp gang is a group of immortal angels is sure to seem insane to some, but is it really much harder to accept than the fact that they’ve seemingly aged barely at all in 30-plus years? We’d argue no. Saul especially seems like he should be long-dead by Coming 2 America‘s story. Sure, they’re crass and foul-mouthed, as well as prone to insults, which isn’t exactly godly, but what they also are deep down is nice people. Their insults toward Akeem, each other, and seemingly other people they gel with are all done in the spirit of friendly ribbing and camaraderie. They never hesitate to listen to Akeem’s problems and offer advice, and they’re still right there in exactly the same place Akeem left them when he returns decades later. With all due respect to Murphy and Hall, Clarence, Saul, Morris, and Sweets aren’t 90, they’re beings completely beyond time and space.