A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.
Directed by John Landis
“He was wearing my Harvard tie. Can you believe it? MY Harvard tie. Like oh, sure, HE went to Harvard!” – Louis Winthorpe III
“Hey that’s the motherf- I mean… that’s the gentleman that had me busted.” – Billy Ray Valentine
John Landis’ comedic entry with Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis is hands down one of the best comedies of the early 1980’s. It’s raw, funny and a biting commentary about the battle of the Social Classes. It takes great advantage of the NYC locale, it’s actors and this Wall Street gut – burster reminds us that the guys on top do not always win even when they try hard to use people to get what they want no matter what the consequences are.
Why this Movie Rocks –
– Murphy is dead on as Billy ray Valentine. One of his best early on-screen interpretations. His timing is amazing and the crude humor is quite funny and timeless compared to say more modern films with similar crude humor like say, the American Pie movies.
– People are not who they seem. One of the most endearing plot devices of Trading Places is the way everyone is mistaken for someone else. It’s often quite funny. Almost very Hawks-ish. The situations are pure farce. Like when Billy Ray is mistaken as a Vietnam Veteran with no legs. Hilarious – “Have you seen Porgy and Bess?!”
– The Duke Brothers. Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche as the miserly, uber-rich and manipulative Duke Brothers are amazing to watch here. Landis pulls out great comedy out of these 2 old gents. They make a bet for one dollar to see if someone who is poor and of little breeding can eventually become a major player on Wall Street. So they zero in on Aykroyd’s character and dismantle his life in so many hilarious ways ending up with him becoming a street bum.
– Riches to Rags story. Poor Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorpe III. Murphy, on the other hand rises to the top of the money making heap but not before bestowing on us some very funny moments like the “farting” in the hot tub scene.
– Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia. She is just incredible to watch. Her accent, her face, her gestures and her timing are amazing. Jamie Lee has always been great at comedy ( A Fish Called Wanda, anyone? ) and here it shows. Plus, there is the very famous um…nude shot in the mirror scene. Ahem.
– The late, great Sir Denholm Elliott as Coleman. A class act all the way even in an 80’s comedy movie.
– The best chemistry. Everyone works incredibly well here. It is pitch perfect and they could not have been much funnier. Murphy’s witty and affable street urchin and Aykroyd’s snobbish Wall Street player. Bellamy and Ameche are the ones to watch here though since they somehow relay their seriousness with the proceedings with a very large twinkle in their eyes.
– John Landis’ impeccable direction. Not much to say about John here that hasn’t been said already. He knows how to get the best out of his actors when putting a comedy together. This is the guy that directed Animal House, An American Werewolf in London and The Blues Brothers!
– A smart and farcical script by writing team Timothy Harris ( Twins and Kindergarten Cop) and Herschel Weingrod ( Space Jam)
In closing Trading Places just rocks and is still pretty damn funny to this day. It has held up well and remains a smart and unique comedy that hits all the right notes. The timing, the great cast ( including all the supporting cast as well ), the story and Landis’ keen direction makes this film a great choice to watch for this or any New Year. Enjoy!