Trading Places (1983) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language and nudity
Running Time: 118 min.
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Jamie Lee Curtis, Denholm Elliott, Paul Gleason, Kristin Holby, James Belushi, Al Franken, Bo Diddley, Frank Oz, Tom Davis, Giancarlo Esposito, Arleen Sorkin
Director: John Landis
Screenplay: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Review published October 18, 2004
Some people may be too young to remember the days when Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters, The Couch Trip) or Eddie Murphy (48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop) could make a funny movie, or even director John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House) for that matter. They say that comedy is all about timing, and here were three very funny comic talents, each at the top of their game, making one very funny farce. It also would bring Jamie Lee Curtis (Road Games, Halloween), previously a b-movie horror flick actress, into the mainstream -- this movie would be just as famous for Jamie Lee baring her breasts as just about anything else one could associate with it. Toss in some cameos, in-jokes, and a fantastic comic pairing of old-time Hollywood stars, Don Ameche (Cocoon, Corrina Corrina) and Ralph Bellamy (Pretty Woman, Rosemary's Baby), and you have Trading Places, one of the funniest films of the 80s.
Aykroyd plays upper-crust commodity broker, Louis Winthorpe III, a successful and wealthy member of trading corporation Duke & Duke. After a small squabble between them, his employers, the Dukes, decide to place a bet that is is one's position in life that makes one a good person and another turn to crime. To properly test their theories, they frame Louis for theft and drug possession, which cost him his job, his home, and his girlfriend, and lands him in the streets. Meanwhile, they stick in street hustler and petty conman Billy Ray Valentine in Louis' old place, with all the amenities that comes with the job. Hilarity ensues.
It's a funny spin on "The Prince and the Pauper", with some social commentary regarding rich vs. poor, black vs. white, and whether environment dictates behavior or genetics, although Landis does keep these debates mostly on a circumstantial level. Solid casting on every level of the production helps this one immensely, and even with a good script by the duo of Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod (Brewster's Millions, Twins) , the comedic actors do a fine job in ad-libbing some of the film's funniest moments. Eddie does steal the show, but Aykroyd is gracious (and funny in his own right) as the straight man in this buddy comedy, and with a very likeable supporting cast, Trading Places is about as fun a two hours as one could want in a movie. It also showed Hollywood that Jamie Lee Curtis could do comedy, and quite well.
I realize that probably every Akyroyd or Murphy fan probably has seen this film a dozen times, and already own this in their collection, but for those who like well-made farces and haven't seen it, it gets a very solid recommendation. A stupid movie done in the smart (and funny) way.
©2004 Vince Leo