Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie of the Week – Trading Places

This week’s movie: Trading Places (1983)

Two millionaire brothers make a bet for one dollar. The bet is if they reverse the positions of a street con artist and their trusted snobbish Wall Street investor, will the two men still be the same or do their surroundings define them. The two brothers carry out their bet, throwing Louis Winthorpe III into the streets, destitute, and giving everything to Billy Ray Valentine.

The film is directed by John Landis, who was maybe the best comedy director of the late 1970s and early 1980s (with films such as The Kentucky Friend Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, and Coming to America; he also directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video). Landis worked with great composer Elmer Bernstein, cinematographer Robert Paynter, and production designer Gene Rudolf.

The film stars Eddie Murphy (in his prime, with films like 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop), Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. There is also good supporting work from Denholm Elliott, Ralph Bellamy, and Don Ameche (plus a bunch of cameos, like Frank Oz and James Belushi).

Trading Places is one of the great comedies of the 1980s. It is hilarious and Murphy and Aykroyd are on the top of their game. Trading Places was very successful critically and commercially, inadvertently launching a ton of sort of similar body swap comedies: Like Father Like Son, Vice Versa, 18 Again!, Prelude to a Kiss, and the remake of Freaky Friday (the first remake) – among others. Okay, so maybe there is no direct correlation between Trading Places and this string of terrible, terrible body swap movies, but it is always fun to go down memory lane. Anyway, Trading Places is one of the decade’s best comedies but also has some interesting social comments. First, the film seems to take a firm stand against the Wall Street greed that ruled the times, portraying all the ‘rich’ characters as being awful, snobbish people who could not care less about the common man. And second, the bet is a fun play on the nature versus nurture argument, seemingly siding with nurture. Trading Places is a must-see for comedy fans and those looking to see the best films of Murphy and Aykroyd.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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