Trading Places (1983) Review
One of my all-time favourite comedies and whilst not strictly a Christmas film it is set around Christmas, oh and Dan Aykroyd plays a drunk Santa at one point so if that isn’t Christmas then I clearly don’t know what Christmas is all about. The story of rich people playing with those beneath them is something played with a lot in films and I can think of quite a few that got it right and will forever be relevant (A Christmas Carol) this film easily meets that list with a stellar cast and a perfect villain team played by the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche) them being extremely racist to boot just makes the end oh so much sweeter to watch. This film is Eddy Murphy at his best and way before his recent failings. Dan Aykroyd’s performance as that snooty high society businessman who loses everything is pure gold, nothing beats him completely drunk dressed as santa and planning on killing Valentine.
The fabulously wealthy but morally bankrupt Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) make a one-dollar bet over heredity vs. environment. Curious as to what might happen if different lifestyles were reversed, they arrange for impoverished street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) to be placed in the lap of luxury and trained for a cushy career in commodities brokerage. Simultaneously, they set about to reduce aristocratic yuppie Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd to poverty and disgrace, hiring a prostitute (Jamie Lee Curtis) to hasten his downfall. When Billy Ray figures out that the brothers intend to dump him back on the streets once their experiment is complete, he seeks out Winthorpe, and together the pauper-turned-prince and prince-turned-pauper plot an uproarious revenge. With the good-hearted prostitute and Winthorpe’s faithful butler (Denholm Elliott) as their accomplices, they set about to hit the brothers where it really hurts: in the pocketbook.
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Story: 95% Acting: 95% Visuals: 80% Dialogue: 95%
The Laughs: 95% Style/Sound: 90% Characters: 95%
To start off let’s talk about the acting. The acting was fantastic, probably one of the best you will see in a comedy, and they seriously don’t make them like this anymore. The main two stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd work great together to display both opposites of the story, poor to rich and rich to poor, they both play both parts very well. What I found best was how the Duke Brothers were terrible people and almost seems like charactertures of bad people but all I keep thinking is that this explains a lot of the action of the very rich and is probably closer to the true than we’d like. Dan Aykroyd in the police station was one of the funniest performances of the film, it’s his reaction to the normal treatment from the police as if he is being violated oh so deeply (his pride and rights, not his butt) although the line from the officer “Strip, you little shit, before I tear you a new asshole!” maybe not strictly protocol. On a separate note how hot is Jamie Lee Curtis in this film, one of the many reasons I like this film we see boob.
So let’s talk about the story and style. I love the style of this film it is so different that most comedies, the story doesn’t start off with any lessons or distinct heroes and villains. The two main characters are both pretty bad, Louis is a pompous ass and Billy is a thief and pretends to be crippled, so who is the character we root for because even in the early stages of the film we don’t know that the Duke Brothers are that bad. We only get the feel for the lesson behind the film when the dukes ruin Louise’s life and from there in we get it, the dukes like to play with the lives of people who they see beneath them and will do this all over a $1 bet. To me one of the best things about a film like this is how easily it can poke holes into businesses that make so much money, essentially the entire system of the stock exchange is very easy to make fun of, for example the dukes trying to explain their job to billy.
Randolph Duke: The good part, William, is that, no matter whether our clients make money or lose money, Duke & Duke get the commissions.
Mortimer Duke: Well? What do you think, Valentine?
Billy Ray: Sounds to me like you guys a couple of bookies.
It’s Christmas! You Watch Trailer!
The best reviews I have found would be these “What’s most visible in the movie is the engaging acting. Murphy and Aykroyd are perfect foils for each other.” Roger Ebert. The two play off each other perfectly and instantly knew who their characters were and could play them to the tee. Also “Because Eddie doesn’t have to carry the whole movie, he is free to make every word that comes out of his mouth infinitely appealing.” Brad Laidman. If Dan Aykroyd wasn’t playing alongside Murphy I don’t think this film would have been as near perfect as it was. My favourite scene is a bit of a two parter, one we have Billy as a complete scumbag pretending to be a crippled and two we have Loiuse trying to frame billy dressed as Santa, the reason together they are my favourite is that it shows that the two of them put in the same scenario act the same. Lastly the scene when the dukes are discussing how this should all end really wraps up how bad they are and how cruel what has happed to Billy and Louse is.