Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Movie Review #9: "Trading Places" (1983)

Director: John Landis
Year: 1983
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), the owners of Duke & Duke commodities brokerage firm, conduct an experiment testing environment versus genetics. Randall bets Mortimer that he can take an underprivileged criminal named Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and turn him into a top manager at their firm and have him excel at the job, while simultaneously driving former manager Louis Winthorp III (Dan Aykroyd) to a life of crime by changing their environments and financial situations.

"Trading Places" is directed by John Landis, who is known for directing films like "The Blues Brothers" and "An American Werewolf in London." It is written by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod, who have worked together on other comedy movies like "Kindergarten Cop" and "Brewster's Millions." It stars Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorp III, the manager of Duke & Duke commodities brokerage firm, which is owned by brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke, played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche. Joining them is Eddie Murphy as streetwise conman Billy Ray Valentine, who gets falsely accused of a crime when he accidentally bumps into the aforementioned Louis Winthorp III outside of the office. After their little run-in, he is jailed, and the two Dukes get an idea for an experiment. They want to switch Winthorp and Valentine's lives to see if Valentine can succeed given the proper advantages, and if Winthorp will turn to crime if he loses everything. So, the Dukes bail Valentine out of jail, set him up in Louis' house with Louis' personal butler and his car, give him Louis' job, and swap the situations of these two men as a fish out of water comedy ensues.

There are a lot of laughs here as this film showcases Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at the top of their comedy game. We get to see Winthorp's devolution from a posh Harvard graduate to a rambling, scruffy bum being forced to shack up with a hooker with a heart of gold named Ophelia, played perfectly by the immeasurable Jamie Lee Curtis. Aykroyd does a fantastic job playing a disheveled soul at the end of his rope. Eddie Murphy, of course, goes the opposite route with his character as he turns from poor panhandler hanging out with drunks to a bougie broker hobnobbing with other wealthy people. Murphy is charming, witty, and hilarious with an infectious smile and laugh. Though he seems to be brought into the fold, the Dukes are still traditional old racists who would never let a black man run their company if it weren't for their experiment. There is a lot of satirical humor when it comes to the racist tendencies of the Dukes as Bellamy and Ameche sell these parts well with their dry delivery and snobbish cadence.

"Trading Places" is a fantastically funny comedy that pokes fun at 80's consumer culture. It is definitely one of the best comedies of Eddie Murphy's career, and is a film we could never get tired of watching. It's awesome to revisit these comedy legends at the very pinnacle of their careers in a film where they are so clearly each other's equal in terms of greatness. As far as Christmas movies go, if you're okay with situational Christmas flicks, this is definitely an excellent choice as it spans the time from Christmas to New Year's, always in the background and sometimes even blending into the zaniness.


My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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Last Christmas, we were watching: "Ernest Saves Christmas"

Two Christmases ago, we were watching: "The Muppet Christmas Carol"

Three Christmases ago, we were watching: "The Polar Express"

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