Trading Places

Title: “Trading Places”

Year: 1983

Run Time: 116 mins

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliot, Paul Gleason

Director: John Landis

Plot: It’s amazing just how much power the one dollar bill can have over a single person’s life. And just watch that power grow when placed in the hands of the ridiculously wealthy. Let’s find out how a single one dollar bet, between businessmen, had the power to transform two men’s lives and subject them into an element they have never experienced before.

In the early years of the 1980’s in Philadelphia, Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) is a successful wealthy businessman working for Duke & Duke, the most powerful firm on the commodities exchange. Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is a poor homeless man, pretending to be handicapped, who is on the down and out of his life. Winthorpe uses his upper class roots and high education to gain wealth and power, whereas, Valentine uses his street smarts and his uncanny ability to con people just to survive everyday of his life. These are two people who are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. But, as fate would have it, a single one dollar bet is about to turn their worlds upside down, changing their lives forever. Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy), one of the two Duke & Duke tycoons, comes up with the idea for a crazy bet with his brother Mortimer Duke (Don Ameche) involving switching the lives of a poor man, living a life of crime, and a rich man enjoying the fruits of the world. When these two worlds collide, it will set off a chain of hilarious events that only gets more funny and outrageous as each minute goes by. Enter in Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine as the guinea pigs for this twisted bet. As manipulated by the Duke brothers, Valentine is now living in the lap of luxury as the replacement of where Winthorpe use to be, as Winthorpe is subjected to the harsh life of a homeless poor man on the mean streets of Philadelphia. Unfortunately this dream cannot last forever for Billy Ray, for one day he finds out just why his life has experienced such a twist of fate. Now that he knows, his street smarts kick in, as he realizes there is only one thing he can do… team up with Winthorp and get revenge on the Dukes! Watch as both Winthorpe and Valentine use their life changing experiences of trading places and band together to not only get rich…but more importantly, to get even!

I love watching comedies made during the 80’s time period. Why? Because they were just flat out fun to watch! And that’s what “Trading Places” is….just flat out fun to watch! There are no hidden messages, no complex story lines, just “in your face” outrageous comedy. And thats just about what you would expect from a John Landis (Animal House, Spies Like Us, Three Amigo’s) film. He’s not trying to win any academy awards with this. He’s simply trying to make his audience laugh. And what better way to do that than having the always hilarious Dan Aykroyd and the young comedic genius of Eddie Murphy opposite screen of each other. Having those two together on screen was like having an atom bomb of laughter being dropped on top of every household where everyone may be watching. Just hearing that distinctive laugh of Eddie Murphy was enough to get my comedic juices flowing. “He he he he”. It seemed like every minute there was something new that tickled my funny bone, bringing on a tornado of laughter that never seemed to stop. Whether it was when Eddie Murphy (Billy Ray Valentine) was in jail trying to talk his way out of a butt whooping from two gargantuan inmates sharing the same cell. “Whoa!!! Whoop!!! Whattaaa!!! That was the quart of blood technique. Do that and a quart of blood will fall out of a person’s body.” Or when Eddie Murphy’s character was trying to explain to Winthorp (Dan Aykroyd) that he can’t just go on shooting people in the kneecaps just because his pissed off. Every bit of laughter was spawned off by pure genius.  Thats the beauty of a John Landis film, you can always count on him to gather up the funniest people of our time to simply just make us laugh.

Another asset that contributed to the success of this movie was the supporting roles and the actors who played them. Take for instance Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the street smart prostitute named Ophelia. Coming from a family of famous actors, I felt that Jamie Lee Curtis used this influential background to bring a short of seriousness and leadership to the set, which made for a successful combination with the hilariousness of all the other characters. Not to say that she wasn’t funny herself at times, but a movie like this can easily go over the top if it doesn’t have a character such as Ophelia to offset the other ‘s. And Jamie Lee Curtis was definitely the woman for the job. Not to mention that she brought an unseen before sexiness to this film. Other supporting actor’s that contributed were Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche as the greedy Duke brother’s. Where else can you find two accomplished actor’s who can bring out the horrible attributes of being rich, at the same time being funny enough to make you forget that you hate them? Their onscreen performances were unforgettable! Those were just a few of the characters and actors that added to the comedic dimension that this movie possesses. But I think you get the picture.

The Obvious: When you put together a cast of actor’s who can make every character in a comedy movie come to life, you have the recipe for a film that will be relentless in it’s pursuit to making you laugh uncontrollably! You will want to watch this over and over again.

The Not So Obvious:  Despite maybe not expecting this movie to receive any awards, Trading Places actually was nominated for a lot more than one, including; Best Adaption Score for a movie (Elmer Berstein), Best Original Screenplay (Timothy Harris & Herschel Weingrod), Best Motion Picture-Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Eddie Murphy). And I like to save the best for last which are Jamie Lee Curtis’ nomination for Best Supporting Actress and Denholm Elliot’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor given at the BAFTA Film Awards, which they both won!  

The Final Cut: Director John Landis has delivered a masterpiece of a film from a comedic standpoint. He directed it with a style that only John Landis could produce. Not only did he pick the perfect cast of actors to grace us with their onscreen presence, he also was successful in setting out to do exactly what he wanted this film to do…and that is, make us laugh uncontrollably. And believe me, that’s exactly what you are going to do. This movie will be an hysterical treat for any adult who views it. Do yourselves a favor and go watch Eddie Murphy at his finest. Between his comedic genius and the masterful roles played by everyone else, “Trading Places” has already reached the status as being one of the best comedy classics of all time!

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