Trading Places (1983)
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Yes, the jokes are a bit dated and somewhat slapstick, but this was a sign of the times. Most 80s comedies were full of slapstick moments. Jamie Lee Curtis was at the height of her sexy image and I'd forgotten how well she'd played her role. The late Don Ameche is so animated that it played perfectly into the mood of the film.
You can find this film in the bargain bin of most stores these days. I saw it for sale for only $5.50. It's worth owning.
The plot is a classic farce situation. The Duke brothers, who clearly feel they are above everybody else, make a bet, for one dollar, over whether anybody regardless of breeding can, in the right environment, become an upper-crust gentleman. So as an experiment to see which one is right, they work circumstances so that the rich Louis Winthorpe III is turned into a miserly bum, while they have Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) take his place. He takes over Louis's job, his house, and his standing in the community. Realistic? Well, no, not really, but this is a farce, so it doesn't really have to be. It is, however, hilarious, which is exactly what a farce should be.
If there's a running theme in this movie, it is duplicity and mistaken identity. People are constantly being mistaken for something they are not, or forced into a situation where they become something they are not. We see this happen not only with the two main characters in the basic plot, but also with Billy Ray pretending to be a Vietnam veteran, then a karate master; Louis, who despite all appearances as a wimp, claims to have stood up to Billy Ray during their earliest encounter in the movie, when he actually hands Billy Ray his suitcase, setting him up for an arrest, when he was not actually trying to steal anything; Ophelia, who for a price pretends to know Louis outside the police station, further besmirching his name; all three plus Coleman, who each dresses up as a different hilarious ethnic character to trick Clarence Beeks; and Beeks, who in a subsequent scene is mistaken for an actual gorilla because he's wearing a costume (Al Franken and Tom Davis as the baggage handlers, marveling over how human the "gorilla" appears, are priceless).
Eventually, Billy Ray finds out what is going on, and gets together with Louis to turn the tables on the Dukes. Ophelia (who has fallen for Louis) and Coleman (who feels guilty and used over his part in the whole ruse) help them out. Do they get their revenge? Watch the movie and find out. It will be well worth your while. This is easily the funniest movie either Ackroyd or Murphy have ever done (its only real competition in this regard is "The Blues Brothers") and to think this was originally meant as a vehicle for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor is odd, because it's hard to imagine either of them in the parts done so well by Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy. John Landis keeps the pace going at a nice fast speed, and being a native Philadelphian, the locales and opening montage (including a scene of the Rocky statue) are a kick. But of course you'll love this movie even if you're not from Philly.
Louise Winthorpe III is a spoiled, snobby managing director at the Duke & Duke commodities brokerage. Billy Ray Valentine is a poverty-stricken street hustler. Randolph Duke makes a wager with his brother Mortimer that the men can be successfully swapped . The con is on as Valentine is plucked from the streets and Winthorpe is ungraciously dumped on them. There's loads of fun watching him hit absolute rock bottom while Valentine quickly becomes spoiled and snobby himself.
Jamie Lee Curtis is the hugely-boobed hooker with a heart of gold who takes Winthorpe in while the always brilliant Denholm Elliott is Coleman, the unwilling butler caught up in the Dukes' evil plan. Once all four unravel the scam they team-up to destroy the Dukes.
Trading Places is crammed full of hilarious scenes, great dialogue, and funny cameos. Who cannot resist Eddie Murphy's foreign exchange student disguise or Ackroyd's Lionel Josef. Even the gorilla in the train is a brilliant character.
For those of you who love dark, cruel comedies Trading Places is utterly essential. It may be very 80s, but it never gets old. It's a must see and must have.
Everything is a success with this movie the high quality of acting from both the main actors and the supporting cast, the wonderful humour and engaging dialogue contained within the script, the development of the plot, the music selection provided for the various scenes and even the atmosphere and scenery contained in the movie. Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd are particularly outstanding in their various roles and keep the excellent performances up in their reversal of roles. Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche and Denham Elliot also provide their characters with a great amount of depth and dimension and make what would have already been a wonderful comedy success even more entertaining. The only very minor criticism is that Jamie Lee Curtis is meant to portray a prostitute in this movie. Jamie Lee Curtis is much too high quality of an actress for the role of a prostitute and I think if the emphasis had been on her character's profession it would have weakened her contribution to the movie. But thankfully the writers and producers recognized that she shouldn't be portrayed in a one-dimensional role and her truly wonderful and highly excellent acting abilities shone through during the whole movie.
The script flowed naturally and had an edge to it that made it both entertaining and intriguing. Even though the storyline and outcome was slightly predictable, the scriptwriters succeeded in keeping you interested and keeping you entertained as the sequence of events unfolded. The humour contained in the movie is genuinely entertaining and doesn't sound forced or strained in the same way that it does in some other movies. Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy make a thoroughly wonderful team and I hope they someday consider doing another movie together. I think the 1980s marked the high point of Eddie Murphy's career and this was one of the movies that cemented his reputation as a great comedian.
I couldn't recommend this movie highly enough. A truly great comedy masterpiece and classic.
Eddie Murphy is absolutely hilarious as a street hustler that was placed in the world of options trading by a couple of old farts who just like to bet with each other.
Of course on the opposite side, the real options trader, Dan Aykroyd, is dumped on the street.
Coming to save the day is Jamie Lee Curtis, who is funny and hot as a prostitute who feels sorry for Winthorpe (Ackroyd).
Denholm Elliott is positively lovable as the butler. Don Ameche and Ralph Bellemy play the betting Duke brothers.
SKIN-TASTIC Moment: In front of a mirror (and Dan Aykroyd) hooker- with-a-chest-of-gold Jamie Lee doffs her top and lets loose her magnificent money-markers in one of history's all-time hottest topless scenes.
Duke brothers Randolph and Mortimer own Duke & Duke, a successful commodities brokerage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Holding opposing views on the issue of nature versus nurture, they make a wager and agree to conduct an experiment switching the lives of two people at opposite sides of the social hierarchy and observing the results. They witness an encounter between their managing director, educated Louis Winthorpe III, and a poor street hustler Billy Ray Valentine; Valentine is arrested at Winthorpe's insistence because of a misunderstanding robbery attempt. The Dukes decide to use the two men for their experiment. Take away Winthorpe's fiancé, home, job, money, friends and respect, frame him on a drug charge, will he bounce back because of his education and manners? Give uneducated Billy Ray a great job, beautiful home, respect and encouragement, will he turn hardened criminal into an upstanding citizen? Trading places, what a great idea if the boys only knew of the Duke's scheme.
Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy were just way too awesome together and had amazing chemistry. Their comedic timing is always on key. A mix with Jamie Lee Curtis and Denholm Elliott added much more to the story and jokes with their reactions and presence. My favorite scene with Dan was definitely seeing him exit the prison with his fiancé and Jamie Lee Curtis has been paid to make it look like he's her lover/drug dealer and her all over him in front of his fiancé while he's just shocked as Jamie goes down on him and to add it all he gets a hard slap to the face! Ouch! But you'll have to pause the scene because you'll die of laughter. Eddie's best scene is also when he gets excited that he could go to his low life acquaintances and show off, he throws a party and they trash his house and he kicks them all out was so funny the way he did it. What a classic movie, one that I will watch again and again. I proudly show this movie to my friends when they need a good laugh. This movie is a treasure to comedies, it's well paced and one of the best movies of all time. The only change I would have made is that at the end when they are on their own private island they toast each other on a job well done and since ironically they ruined the Dukes with orange juice, it would have been more hilarious if that's what they were toasting with instead of champagne. But it's still a perfect movie, highly recommended.
The movie is very funny and was a welcome relief compared to some of the terrible films Eddie Murphy made early in his career (such as BEST DEFENSE)--ditto for Dan Aykroyd (NEIGHBORS). But in my opinion, the real stars in the films aren't the comedians, but the nasty old codgers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) who manipulate both Murphy and Aykroyd for their own petty amusement. They are just plain evil and awful and seeing them in action was quite a treat for these two aging actors.
The film is about trading places, as rich-guy Aykroyd is forced to live on the street and homeless guy Murphy is suddenly elevated to wealth and privilege. Along the way, there are lots of laughs and the script generally is very good, though occasionally the humor becomes painfully unfunny and stupid (such as the gorilla scene near the end). But overall, the laughs greatly outweigh the lulls, so it's a wonderful film if you need a chuckle.
Ultra-rich businessmen Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche) run a successful firm in Philadelphia, buying and selling their way to ever-increasing wealth. One of their best employees is business executive Louis Winthorp III (Dan Akroyd), a pampered brat who lives in a huge house and has his every need tended to by his faithful butler Coleman (Denholm Elliott). The Duke brothers disagree that Winthorp's success is the result of good breeding and education. Randolph believes that Winthorp was born into an easy life and that anyone - even a lowlife from the streets - could do his job if given the chance. Mortimer is adamant that a lowlife would fail in the world of big business and etiquette, and that Winthorp would still find a way to succeed in life if he were cast out on the streets. The brothers place a one-dollar wager against each other to determine who is right. Via a series of engineered lies, Winthorp loses his job, his house, his fiancée, his butler and his reputation. Then, foul-mouthed street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is plucked from the gutter and put in Winthorp's place. Winthorp struggles to adapt to his new-found poverty, while Valentine proves a surprisingly perceptive and effective financier. But when Valentine discovers that the whole thing is just a wager - and that the Dukes eventually plan to fire him from their firm - he tracks down Winthorp, and together they plan an audacious sting on the scheming brothers, aided by Coleman the butler and Winthorp's new girlfriend, street-wise hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis).
Trading Places is, in many ways, a 20th Century variation of the story of The Prince And The Pauper. The comic dialogue is expertly handled, and the casting is just genius. Who would have thought that old veterans like Bellamy, Ameche and Elliott would be able to bounce off a volatile, foul-mouthed fast-talker like Murphy to such brilliant effect? That's not to say the film is perfect. Others have pointed out, correctly, that the wit runs dry about two-thirds of the way in and the film becomes more caperish. The final third deals with the revenge plotted by Murphy and Akroyd against the Duke brothers - while it has some passable silliness (check out those stupid disguises they wear during the train journey to New York), it is all rather plot-heavy and seems disappointingly similar to those caper movies that were all the rage in the '70s (eg The Sting, Bank Shot, The Hot Rock, Silver Bears, etc.). Still, on the whole Trading Places is a lot of fun and, at least for two-thirds of the way, it is a comedy of real quality!
One year before he famously became Ray Spengler in "Ghostbusters", Dan Ackroyd was superb in this film from 1983. Teaming up with comedian Eddie Murphy, Ackroyd was brilliant as the stock trader who's life is ruined by two arrogant businessmen's bets.
Louis Winthorpe III (Ackroyd) works for the major Duke Corporation. Earning money for arrogant brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), Winthorpe is thrown on the street when his bosses conduct a social experiment. Replaced by Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy), Winthorpe's life slowly collapses in on itself. Eventually with the help of Valentine and prostitute Ophelia (a young, occasionally topless, Jamie Lee Curtis), Winthorpe goes out on revenge.
With a film style which is typically 80's, "Trading Places" could so easily be cast aside like the majority of comedy from the decade. As an exception however, the story is a fun, lighthearted escapade with a stunning cast.
As the downward spiralling Winthorpe, Ackroyd gives perhaps his finest comedy performance, most notably shoving a huge cooked fish inside his Santa Claus outfit.
Eddie Murphy, as Ackroyd's contrasting number is great as a former bum who develops an obsession with keeping his house clean and who finds it hard to cope with his new found wealth.
In terms of supporting cast, Jamie Lee Curtis produces a decent performance as Ackroyd's love interest, although she never outperforms her role as Wanda in "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988). In contrast, deceased actors Denholm Elliot, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy are great in their respective roles, whether loyal butler or cruel millionaire.
All in all, with a superb cast and the typical 80's comedy element, "Trading Places" is a great film. What makes it different from other 80's comedies ("Weekend At Bernies" for example) is that whilst others grow tiresome and old, this film is always a pleasure to watch. Whether for the first time or for the hundredth time, "Trading Places" is always a guaranteed laugh and a true feel good movie.
Then-Saturday Night Live stars Dan Akyroyd and Eddie Murphy star as Louis Winthorpe and Billy Ray Valentine, respectively, as pawns in the wager of the Dukes, played by famous yesteryear actors Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, two wealthy old commodities traders who are cheap, greedy and self-centered bigots. Winthorpe runs the Dukes' business, but when he has a run-in with Valentine, the old men see an opportunity and strip Winthorpe of everything from his job to his fiancée and they give it all to Valentine.
Although the men making the bet are pretty terrible people judging mostly by their feelings about "N-words," the experiment is a timeless one: Is a man's moral fiber in his genetics, or is it merely a product of environmental circumstance that can be changed like a set of clothes? In the case of this film, can you take the man out of the ghetto and take the ghetto out of the man? Can a man of utmost principle be turned into a depraved lunatic? In the early 1980s, the new era of Civil Rights was barely 15 years old. Racial prejudice, economic prejudice -- these things were just beginning to improve, and even today they need work.
No other film can boast two SNL stars and a social conscience, which makes "Trading Places" so special. Akyroyd is at his best as Winthorpe and Murphy gives one of his least eccentric (yet still humorous) performances. For opposite ends of the spectrum, they fit well together in this film. I've laughed harder at numerous more '80s comedies than this one, but the smarts that back up "Trading Spaces" keep it in the upper-echelon.
But a story with the potential for a social statement needs a director who sees that ideas as being of utmost importance. Esteemed '80s comedy directory John Landis has this covered from the very beginning with shots of wealth, poverty and the city of Philadelphia where the film takes place all intermingled. The film is very subtly about these greater social issues, but it's definitely about them.
Murphy steals the show. There is a very talented supporting cast. Denholm Elliott is the butler that provides some dry humor. The classy Jamie Lee Curtis is a 'lady of the streets' and causes a few freeze frame moments that are hard to forget. Also notable are Kristin Holby and James Belushi. Rock 'n' roll legend Bo Diddley has a cameo as a pawnbroker. A wealth of enjoyment rich in fun, fun, funny!
Now the brothers, who have observed this commotion, have been having an argument about whether environment or breeding makes a man, and they bet one dollar against one another in an experiment in which they will disgrace Winthorpe, cause him to lose his money and his standing in the community, and make him poor. The other half of the experiment is to build up Valentine into someone that they can pass off as one of their employees, and they give him Winthorpe's old house to live in. The experiment will tell whether a change in environment will make a gentleman out of Billy Ray and cause Winthorpe to turn to crime.
How are the Dukes being a jerk to Billy Ray? Once the experiment is over they plan to throw him back out into the street.
Well the brothers successfully pull off both switches. As a result both Winthorpe and Billy Ray learn the people they thought were friends really aren't. Winthorpe's friends and fiancée abandon him. Billy Ray discovers his friends are hanging around "his house" just for freebies. Meanwhile a beautiful hooker (Jamie Lee Curtis) takes in Winthorpe who has no idea how to fend for himself without money or at least plastic. She is doing this for a price however, once Winthorpe can reclaim his fortune he promises to pay her well.
Funny thing, Curtis' hooker has a plan that would never work today. She is saving her money and putting them in T-Bills at 10% and plans to retire in a few years and live off the interest. Good luck with that plan today since you cant even get banks to pay you .01%. She'd be on her back until she was old and flabby and nobody wanted the ride.
How does this all work out? I'll just say "justly". That's all. Try to dig up this oldie from the 80's when greed was good and watch for yourselves.
Personally, the Dukes are so bad they are terrific. My favorite exchange between them:
Duke brother 1 - "Mother always said you were the greedy one".
Duke brother 2 - "She meant it as a compliment."